Former President Bill Clinton, who was recently honored at the GLAAD Media Awards, issued a statement about NBA center Jason Collins becoming the first openly gay male athlete in a major professional team sport.

The statement reads:                            

"I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea's classmate and friend at Stanford. 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."

Clinton also expressed his delight on Twitter:



Chelsea Clinton also shared her thoughts on Twitter:



Collins came out on Monday in an exclusive op-ed piece for Sports Illustrated, proclaiming: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

“I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," he siad. "But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I'm different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.”

The 7-foot center is currently a free agent who’s played in the NBA for 12 seasons.

He cited several reasons for his coming out, including the Supreme Court’s recent hearings on same-sex marriage in late March, the Boston Marathon bombings, and the attendance of his former college roommate at Stanford, Congressman Joe Kennedy, at the 2012 Boston Gay Pride.

The athlete wrote: "I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, 'Me, too.'" 

To read the full op-ed piece by Collins in Sports Illustrated, click here.