After he was done answering questions from the press during a Tuesday press conference about important topics like Benghazi, Syria, the Boston Marathon bombing investigation, and immigration, President Barack Obama came back to the podium to specifically answer–and reflect on–a question shouted at him about Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out on Monday and is now the first openly gay male player in major professional sports.
Obama, ensuring the spotlight would be on his comments, said he had spoken to Collins on the phone on Monday and noted he “seems like a terrific young man.” Obama said he “couldn’t be prouder” of Collins.
The president has refused to answer more important questions, especially those concerning national security, that have been shouted at him in the past. His press conferences are rare, and the White House has not issued comments in the past about plenty of other significant Americans like slain former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.
But in a press conference that was scheduled in the midst of the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and other “cultural” issues like the murder trial of Kermit Gosnell, the abortion doctor accused of heinously murdering born-alive babies at a Philadelphia clinic, Obama took an ample amount of time to reflect on Collins’s Monday announcement in Sports Illustrated.
Obama said “one of the extraordinary measures or progress that we’ve seen in this country” was the recognition that the gay and lesbian community deserves “full equality” to be “fully a part of the American family.”
Obama said, “given the importance of sports in society,” Collins’s announcement was important for younger athletes who may be gay who now have a role model who is unafraid to say, “This is who I am. I’m proud of it. I’m still a great competitor. I’m still seven foot tall and can bang with Shaq and deliver a hard foul.”
He generously referred to Collins, a career journeyman, as a player who has “excelled at the highest level.”
Obama, echoing the language he often uses on the stump, said “this is just one more step in this ongoing recognition that we treat everyone fairly” and said he wanted gay athletes to be judged on the basis of their character and performance and not sexual orientation.
“Everyone is part of the family and we judge people on the basis of their character,” Obama said, reiterating that he was “very proud” of Collins.