Players, celebs hail Collins' courage for coming out
WASHINGTON - From superstars Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade to celebrities like Spike Lee and US President Barack Obama, NBA center Jason Collins found support Monday for his landmark admission that he is gay.
The 34-year-old NBA center became the first active American professional team sports player to publicly reveal his homosexuality, doing so to Sports Illustrated in an article published on the magazine's website.
"The President called Jason Collins to express his support and said he was impressed by his courage," a White House aide told AFP.
"We view that as another example of the progress that has been made and the evolution that has been taking place in this country," said Jay Carney, the spokesman for Obama, a huge basketball fan.
First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted: "So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We've got your back!"
And former US President Bill Clinton said in a statement, "I hope that everyone (will) extend to him their support and the respect he has earned." Clinton's daughter Chelsea was a friend of Collins while both were at Stanford.
Players from across the US sports landscape tweeted support for Collins, including a host of NBA stars.
"Jason Collins showed a lot of courage today," Miami guard Wade said. "I respect him for taking a stand and choosing to live in his truth."
"Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support," Los Angeles Lakers star Bryant posted.
"The time has come. Maximum respect," tweeted Laker guard Steve Nash of Canada, while teammate Pau Gasol, a Spanish forward, tweeted: "It's amazing to see such courage."
"Really hope people will RESPECT Jason Collins for his decision," tweeted San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker of France. "Just glad he can now relax and not be afraid to be who he is."
"I support him 100%" tweeted Magic Johnson, the retired Lakers legend who in 1991 admitted he had contracted the HIV virus.
"Stand tall you have more supporters than haters," NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas tweeted.
A-list celebrities were also quick to back Collins, from movie director Lee, a front-row spectator at New York Knicks games, to US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who herself made headlines when she came out.
"Jason Collins just did Beautiful Thing. Be Yourself," Lee tweeted. "Thank You For Your Courage,A Slam Dunk Against HOMOPHOBIA.And Dat's Da 'FREEDOM'Truth,Ruth."
DeGeneres said: "I'm overwhelmed by your bravery, Jason, and sending so much love."
"Thanks for stepping up. For standing tall. And at 7 feet, that's saying a lot," openly gay actor Neil Patrick Harris tweeted.
Comedian Rosie O'Donnell, who is gay, tweeted: "Thank you Jason Collins - for being the first one - knocking down doors !!!"
Collins earned kudos from fellow gay athletes, including England's John Amaechi, an NBA player from 1995-2003 who in 2007 became the first retired NBA player to say he was gay.
"Congratulations to Jason - society couldn't hope for a more eloquent and positive role model," Amaechi tweeted.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who won 18 Grand Slam women's singles titles and is openly gay, praised Collins for his courage.
"Well done Jason Collins- you are a brave man. And a big man at that:) 1981 was the year for me- 2013 is the year for you:)," she tweeted.
Robbie Rogers, a retired US national team football player who revealed he was gay earlier this year, tweeted: "I feel a movement coming."
Collins has played for six NBA teams in 12 seasons, most recently for the Washington Wizards, whose president Ernie Grunfeld supported the free agent.
"We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly," Grunfeld said. "He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career.
"Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation."
Players from other US leagues also voiced support.
NFL Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, a vocal gay rights advocate, tweeted: "Big kudos to @JasonCollins34. Living proof that your sexuality has nothing to do with your athletic ability."
"I'd be proud to call him a teammate if I played in the NBA," tweeted Kansas City Royals baseball pitcher Aaron Crow.
Baseball's Boston Red Sox offered Collins a chance to throw out a ceremonial first pitch, tweeting: "We salute you for your courage and leadership."
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