Michelle Obama to first gay US basketball player: ‘We’ve got your back’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, as well as thousands of others, have tweeted their support for Jason Collins, the professional basketball player who became the first openly gay athlete in any major US team sport.

Collins, who came out earlier today, has received congratulations and support from New York Mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, NBA star Kobe Bryant, actor Neil Patrick Harris, singers Ricky Martin and Lance Bass, the Boston Red Sox baseball team, former England rugby star Ben Cohen, the NFL’s Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo, NBA Commissioner David Stern, and countless others.

In a simple message of support for Collins, Michelle Obama tweeted from the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) Twitter account, commending him for coming out, and saying saying: “We’ve got your back”.

Jason Collins today spoke about his sexuality, confirming he is gay in an article to Sports Illustrated magazine. He said: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

As well as the support of the Obamas, Collins was also commended by other figures in the political, and sporting world.

Openly gay New York City Mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, said: “What Jason did today isn’t just going to help other athletes, it’s literally going to save lives. Because it’s going to send a message to a boy like that that it’s OK, that the greatest athletes – who are children’s heroes more than athletes – are also LGBT, and it might create a moment in that discussion about the layup or that discussion about the home run or the punter’s kick to talk about how that child is feeling.”

Kobe Bryant, a fellow NBA player, who recently made the headlines for chastising a fan for using an anti-gay slur on Twitter, also offered his support with some wise words.

Mentioning Collins’ height, openly gay actor Neil Patrick Harris, who earlier this year faced accusations of pushing a “gay agenda” for his Super Bowl advert, also offered congratulations.

The Boston Red Sox baseball team offered Collins the chance the honour of throwing the first pitch at Fenway Park, and congratulated the step taken by Collins.

Ben Cohen, founder of StandUp Foundation which aims to tackle homophobia and transphobia in sport, and former England Rugby captain congratulated Collins, and noted the “role model” status of Collins, and the significance of him coming out.

NFL stars Chris Kluwe, of the Minnesota Vikings and Super Bowl Champion Brendon Ayanbadejo, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, who together filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court urging it to strike down federal bans on equal marriage, both were quick to tweet their support.

David Stern, the Commissioner of the NBA, also commended Collins, saying: “As Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron 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. #NBAFamily”

Collins, who is professionally a free agent, having played 11 seasons in the NBA with six teams, said he had tried to suppress his feelings through relationships with women.

As the world congratulated, and deliberated over Collins’ decision to come out, he expressed gratitude for the support, and said he felt inspired.

Earlier today, former US president Bill Clinton, and his daughter Chelsea, both praised Jason Collins for going public about his sexuality within minutes of the news breaking.