President Obama Calls Jason Collins, Says He's 'Impressed By His Courage'
President Barack Obama picked up the phone on Monday to call and offer his support to Jason Collins, the NBA player who had just publicly announced that he was gay.
The president wished to express his support of Collins's decision to come out and to tell him that "he was impressed by his courage," a White House official confirmed to The Huffington Post. He placed a call into the NBA center just hours after his editorial appeared on the Sports Illustrated website yesterday.
In his Sports Illustrated editorial, Collins came out of the closet to become the first openly gay male athlete competing in a major American sport. After having a strong career at Stanford, Collins joined the NBA in 2001. Since then, he's played for a number of teams, most recently the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.
"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," he told the magazine. "But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different.' If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
While President Obama's reaching out to Collins is certainly notable, he was not the first political figure to do so – and neither was former president Bill Clinton or First Lady Michelle Obama. It was Joe Kennedy, the Massachusetts Representative and grandson to the late Robert F. Kennedy, who actually helped to encourage Collins to come out. The two men were once college roommates at Stanford University.
“For as long as I’ve known Jason Collins, he has been defined by three things: his passion for the sport he loves, his unwavering integrity, and the biggest heart you will ever find,” the congressman said in a statement minutes after Collins's public announcement. “Without question or hesitation, he gives everything he’s got to those of us lucky enough to be in his life. I’m proud to stand with him today and proud to call him a friend.”
Watch Collins's interview earlier today with Good Morning America below: