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First openly gay NBA star Jason Collins shares powerful words Barack Obama said to him when he came out

Patrick Kelleher February 2, 2021
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Jason Collins Barack Obama

Jason Collins received a phone call from Barack Obama after coming out as gay. (Kevin Winter/Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, has spoken about the powerful words Barack Obama said to him after he came out.

Collins made history when he came out as gay in April 2013, becoming the first active male athlete on a major professional American team to do so.

He was inundated with supportive messages, and Obama even took the time to call him personally to offer his well wishes.

“I saw a few unknown numbers come in and it was back-to-back calls from Oprah Winfrey and president Barack Obama,” Collins told BBC Sport.

“Words of support, words of acceptance. President Barack Obama said to me that my actions will have a positive impact on someone that I might not ever meet in my lifetime, and I thought, ‘That’s really cool. I never really thought about that!'”

Barack Obama was ‘very proud’ of Jason Collins for coming out as gay

Obama was outspoken in his support for Collins when he came out publicly as gay in 2013. The White House announced at the time that the then-president had called Collins personally to offer his well wishes following his announcement.

Shortly afterwards, Obama told reporters at the White House that he was “very proud” of Collins for having taken such a major step.

“He seems like a terrific young man, and I told him I couldn’t be prouder,” Obama told reporters at the time.

I always walked around with a filter, thinking, ‘OK, I can’t say this because I don’t want someone to pick up on the fact that I’m gay.’

“One of the extraordinary measures of progress that we’ve see in this country has been the recognition that the LGBT community deserves full equality – not just partial equality, not just tolerance, but a recognition that they’re fully a part of the American family.”

Elsewhere in his BBC Sport interview, Jason Collins spoke about the challenges that came with living in the closet.

“I always walked around with a filter, thinking, ‘OK, I can’t say this because I don’t want someone to pick up on the fact that I’m gay,'” he said.

“I didn’t want people asking questions so I constantly had to wear a mask. I didn’t want to be the first. But I reached a point where I was like, ‘OK, nobody else is raising their hand, I’m going to raise my hand and say, ‘Yeah, I’m gay. I’m one of those. And so what? And I’m going to continue to live my life and continue to do my job.'”

Related topics: Barack Obama, Jason Collins

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