Obama says ‘couldn’t be prouder’ of Jason Collins

FILE - Boston Celtics center Jason Collins battles Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) for a rebound during the first half of their NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 in Los Angeles. NBA veteran center Collins has become the first male professional athlete in the major four American sports leagues to come out as gay. Collins wrote a first-person account posted Monday, April 29, 2013 on Sports Illustrated's website.(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
FILE - Boston Celtics center Jason Collins battles Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) for a rebound during the first half of their NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 in Los Angeles. NBA veteran center Collins has become the first male professional athlete in the major four American sports leagues to come out as gay. Collins wrote a first-person account posted Monday, April 29, 2013 on Sports Illustrated's website.(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he told NBA center Jason Collins that he “couldn’t be prouder of him” for coming out as gay while playing in a major sports league.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Obama said Collins showed the progress the United States has made in recognizing that gays and lesbians deserve full equality. He said they deserve “not just tolerance but recognition that they’re fully a part of the American family.”

Collins has played for six teams in 12 seasons, including this past season with the Washington Wizards, and is now a free agent.

He made his groundbreaking pronouncement in an online article Monday, and Obama called him to express support. Obama said people should be judged on their character and performance, not their sexual orientation.

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