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Obama: I ‘Couldn’t Be Prouder’ of Jason Collins

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President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference in the Briefing Room of the White House on April 30, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference in the Briefing Room of the White House on April 30, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama said during a Tuesday press conference that he “couldn’t be prouder” of NBA player Jason Collins for revealing he’s gay in a recent Sports Illustrated article.

Obama broke his own rule of answering questions following a press conference and did an about-face and returned to the podium when asked his thoughts on Collins becoming the first male athlete in a major American sport to come out.

“One of the extraordinary measures of progress that we’ve seen in this country, 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,” Obama said.

Obama phoned Collins Monday after the Sports Illustrated article was released to express his support for the journeyman center.

“Given the importance of sports in our society, for an individual who has excelled at the highest levels in one of the major sports says, ‘This is who I am, I’m proud of it, I’m still a great competitor, I’m still 7-foot tall and can bang with Shaq, 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’s 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’s part of a family,” Obama said.

Collins says the deadly Boston Marathon bombings “reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”

Most recently a little-used reserve center for the Washington Wizards after a midseason trade from the Boston Celtics, the 7-foot Collins is a free agent who can sign with any team. He wants to keep playing in the NBA.

In an interview taped Monday and aired Tuesday morning, Collins told ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “I think the country is ready for supporting an openly gay basketball player.”

Obama coming back to the podium to take a question when his press conferences are over is a rare sight. The president has previously said he won’t answer more questions when a press conference is over because it would be unfair to everyone else.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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