The White House on Monday praised Michael Sam, a football player likely to become the first openly gay player in a major American sports league.
First lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both took to Twitter to express their support.
“You're an inspiration to all of us, @MikeSamFootball. We couldn't be prouder of your courage both on and off the field. -mo,” the first lady said on her official Twitter account. Tweets personally written by the first lady are signed “mo.”
“Thank you to @MikeSamFootball & all of the players, @mizzoufootball & coaches at @mizzou - your courage is an inspiration to all of us.-VP,” tweeted the vice president from his @VP account.
Sam, a defensive end who played for the University of Missouri, announced Sunday night that he was gay.
“I am an openly proud gay man,” Sam, 24, said according to reports from the New York Times and ESPN, which first reported the story.
Sam told reporters that he had disclosed his sexuality to teammates before the start of the 2013 season.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said that he had not specifically spoken with President Obama about Sam but that he “shares the sentiments expressed by the first lady, vice president and so many others … marveling at his courage and congratulating him on the decision he has made, the support he has had on his team and wishing him well in the future including at professional football.”
Sam’s decision to publicly declare his sexuality has sparked a new debate about the reception he will receive in the NFL — a league where other players have previously said that gay teammates would not be welcome in the locker room. Some have speculated that his announcement could hurt his stock in the NFL Draft.
Carney said that while he was not speaking directly for Obama, “it is his view that it should not have an effect.”
”Any athlete’s ability should be measured in the traditional way by how he or she performs in the sport or on the field in this case,” he continued. “His performance has been exceptional, that would be the president view but I haven’t talked to him.”
President Obama became the first sitting president to endorse gay marriage and has made gay rights a centerpiece of his domestic agenda.
Last year, President Obama publicly praised National Basketball Association veteran Jason Collins for coming out, saying he was “proud” of his decision.
Collins was one of first lady Michelle Obama's guests during last month's State of the Union address.
Obama also tapped a number of openly gay athletes to be part of his presidential delegation to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, to protest Moscow's passing of anti-gay legislation.
Over the weekend, Attorney General Eric Holder also announced that the Justice Department would expand their recognition of same-sex marriages in many legal contexts, affording married gay couples greater rights.
This story was published at 10:48 a.m. and was updated at 1:59 p.m.