Obama Praises Jason Collins for Revealing He's Gay

Getty Images

President Barack Obama says he's spoken with NBA player Jason Collins and commended him on his groundbreaking decision to become the first active male athlete in a major team sport to come out as gay.

Speaking at a White House news conference Tuesday, Obama said he "couldn't be prouder" of Collins for reflecting progress the United States has made in recognizing that gays and lesbians deserve full equality.

PICS: Star Sightings

Obama added that members of the gay and lesbian community deserve "not just tolerance, but recognition that they're fully a part of the American family." Obama said he believes that all people should be judged on their character and performance, not their sexual orientation.

The 34-year-old center -- who played for six NBA teams over 12 seasons and is currently a free agent -- revealed his sexuality Monday in a Sports Illustrated cover story.  "I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," Collins said. "But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation."

RELATED: NBA Player First Major Athlete to Come Out Gay