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President Barack Obama says he told NBA center Jason Collins that he 'couldn't be prouder of him' for coming out as gay while playing in a major sports league. / AP

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says he told NBA center Jason Collins that he “couldn’t be prouder of him” for coming out as gay while playing in a major sports league.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Obama said Collins showed the progress the United States has made in recognizing that gays and lesbians deserve full equality. He said they deserve “not just tolerance but recognition that they’re fully a part of the American family.”

Collins has played for six teams in 12 seasons, including this past season with the Washington Wizards, and is now a free agent.

He made his groundbreaking pronouncement in an online article Monday, and Obama called him to express support. Obama said people should be judged on their character and performance, not their sexual orientation.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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