Obama on Jason Collins: ‘I think America should be proud’
At the conclusion of his press conference Tuesday, President Barack Obama reiterated his support for gay NBA player Jason Collins, who came out Monday in a story for Sports Illustrated.
“I had a chance to talk to him yesterday,” Obama said, confirming Collins’ own account of a phone call between the two. “He seems like a terrific young man and I told him I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
Collins’ announcement made him the first athlete in one of the country’s most profitable sports leagues to come out while still competing. The president referenced the impending free agent center’s active status, saying Collins demonstrated that he was proud of his identity while still being “7 foot tall and [being able to] bang with” — basketball slang for jostling for position near the basket against other post players — a player like Shaquille O’Neal.
O’Neal, who retired in 2011, expressed his support for Collins on Twitter, writing that he was proud of him “for showing all of us what leadership looks like.”
“For a lot of young people out there who are gay or lesbian who are struggling with these issues to see a role model like that who’s not afraid, I think that’s a great thing,” Obama said. “And I think America should be proud that this is just one more step in this ongoing recognition that we treat everybody fairly.”
Collins told ABC News host George Stephanopoulos that Obama called him shortly after he made the announcement.
“It’s incredible. You just try to live an honest, genuine life and next thing you know you have the president calling you,” Collins said in the interview, which aired Tuesday on Good Morning America, adding that Obama “was incredibly supportive and he was proud of me. And said that this not only affected my life, but others going forward.”
Watch Obama’s comments regarding Collins, in video posted by Think Progress on Tuesday, below.