Bill Clinton, Kobe Bryant, Others Praise Jason Collins

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com April 29 2013 12:06 PM ET

Reaction is pouring in regarding NBA center Jason Collins’s coming out as the first openly gay active player in a major team sport, with even a former president commenting.

Bill Clinton, whose daughter, Chelsea, went to Stanford University with Collins, issued a statement saying, “Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason’s colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned.”

One NBA colleague who voiced support was Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, who tweeted, “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU,” as reported on ESPN’s website.

Others tweeting positive words included filmmaker Spike Lee, who called Collin's action "a slam dunk against homophobia," and out comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who said, "I'm overwhelmed by your bravery, Jason, & sending so much love."

Away from Twitter, there was a supportive statement from NBA commissioner David Stern. “As Adam Silver [deputy commissioner] and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron [Jason’s twin brother] joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family. Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue,”

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin issued a statement of praise for Collins as well. “With his brave and honest announcement today, Jason Collins has forever changed the face of sports. No longer will prejudice and fear force gay athletes to remain silent about a fundamental part of their lives. By coming out and living openly while still an active NBA player, Collins has courageously shown the world that one’s sexual orientation is no longer an impediment to achieving one’s goals, even at the highest levels of professional sports.” Griffin compared Collins to Jackie Robinson, the first black major league baseball player and the subject of the film 42, currently in theaters, and said Collins “immediately becomes a role model for youth all across this country.”

Praise also came from GLAAD. “‘Courage’ and ‘inspiration’ are words that get thrown around a lot in sports, but Jason Collins has given both ideas a brand new context,” said Aaron McQuade, head of GLAAD’s sports program. “We hope that his future team will welcome him, and that fans of the NBA and sports in general will applaud him. We know that the NBA will proudly support him, and that countless young LGBT athletes now have a new hero.” Meanwhile, GLAAD has a Jason Collins meme (pictured).