A US University basketball conference has reiterated its support for equality, and has said it supports gay players who wish to come out and continue playing.

The issue of whether or not professional athletes feel comfortable enough to come out has become particularly topical since NBA star Jason Collins came out on Monday, and the Pac-12 conference has released a statement in support of moving forward to more equality and inclusivity in sports.

Collins, a former Pac-12 player and Stanford University alumni, spoke about his sexuality, confirming he is gay in an article in Sports Illustrated magazine. He said: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

“Our schools consider themselves progressive and believe strongly in equality,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. “Those are very important principles that our schools stand for. That’s one of the great things about sports. Athletes can be role models for society. Sport is so much about merit-based,” read the statement.

“People come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, racial backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, and on the sporting field or in the arena, those differences don’t matter. It’s being part of a team. And in an individual sport it’s about performance. Sport is a great leveler. I think in this case, I hope what Jason Collins has done is yet another example of sport providing a path forward for society to have a civil discourse and talk openly about these issues and differences in society. I think it’s a great role sports can play.”

The basketball coach at Stanford University David Shaw, said: “I think it’s not just the West Coast,”

“It’s the younger generation. They have grown up in a different world than we have. The world is different now. Us older folks expect some form of Armageddon. Whereas the younger people, it’s like ‘OK, what’s next?’ This is the generation that grew up with TV and movies addressing homosexuality,” he continued.

“It’s not as big a deal to them as it is to us. We think something crazy is going to happen. The kids are like, ‘Yeah, whatever. That’s not who I am, but that’s who he is. OK. No problem. Can he shoot free throws? Can he play with his back to the basket?’ That’s what they care about.”

Since coming out, Collins was subject to a tirade of abuse on the social networking site Twitter, including a number of death threats.

Despite some abusive messages, Collins received thousands of messages of support, including from President Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, his teammates, coaches, the Commissioner of the NBA, and countless others.

In his first interview since coming out as gay, Collins said he hoped other professional athletes will follow his lead, and he later revealed that he wore the number 98 jersey in a silent gesture of solidarity with the gay community.

Some have taken to condemning the star for coming out, such as US conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who attacked President Obama for supporting him.