The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

April 30, 2013

'I'm gay': NBA player Jason Collins breaks barrier

(Continued)

Added Kennedy: "I'm so proud of him. And I'm so proud to call him a friend."

Collins' announcement, nearly two weeks after the Wizards' season ended, immediately drew praise and backing not only from pals, current and former teammates and coaches, the NBA itself, and a sponsor, but also from the White House. President Barack Obama called him — "he was incredibly supportive and he was proud of me," Collins told ABC — along with former President Bill Clinton, and athletes in various other sports.

"I certainly appreciate it, as a gay person. Any time you can have someone this high-profile come out, it's just so helpful, particularly to young people. We've reached a tipping point," said Billie Jean King, a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles.

"We've got to get rid of the shame. That's the main thing," King said in a telephone interview. "And Jason's going to help that. He's going to help give people courage to come out."

In texts to the AP, Wizards guard Garrett Temple wrote, "I was surprised. I didn't know and I was right next to him in the locker room. It definitely took a lot of courage for him to come out. He was a great teammate," and rookie Bradley Beal wrote: "I didn't know about it! I don't think anyone did! I am proud of his decision to come out and express the way he feels and I'm supportive of that!!"

Collins' coach with the Celtics, Doc Rivers, drew a comparison between Monday's announcement and Jackie Robinson's role when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

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