Obama riffs on Jason Collins coming out as gay

An interesting moment in this morning’s press conference by President Obama. He was walking off the dais when someone yelled a question about NBA player Jason Collins announcing yesterday that he’s gay.

Collins is the first man in a major professional sport (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB) to come out.

Washington Wizards' Jason Collins, courtesy of the NBA.

Washington Wizards’ Jason Collins, courtesy of the NBA.

Obama immediately pivoted, made his way back to the podium, then riffed for a good two minutes about Collins and the significance of his coming out. It was quite a moment, and really kind of fascinating that Obama felt so strongly about the issue that he pivoted and came back to the podium. I’m not entirely sure what it all means, but it’s a good sign that he felt the need to come back and address the issue, and do it so strongly, when he clearly didn’t have to.

Just as interesting, Obama revealed that he spoke with Collins yesterday.  I had no idea.  But of course, the inimitable Amanda Terkel and Sam Stein knew :)

Q Jason Collins? Do you want to say anything about it?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I’ll say something about Jason Collins. I had a chance to talk to him yesterday. He seems like a terrific young man. And I told him I couldn’t be prouder of him.

One of the extraordinary measures of progress that we’ve seen 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.

And given the importance of sports in our society, for an individual who has excelled at the highest levels in one of the major sports to go ahead and 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 — (laughter) — and deliver a hard foul — and for I think a lot of young people out there who are gay or lesbian who are struggling with these issues, to see a role model like that who is unafraid, I think it’s a great thing.

And I think America should be proud that this is just one more step in this ongoing recognition that we treat everybody fairly, and everybody is part of a family, and we judge people on the basis of their character and their performance and not their sexual orientation. So I’m very proud of him.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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