Michelle O: Gay football player 'an inspiration'

First Lady Michelle Obama on Monday said Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam is "an inspiration to all of us” for coming out as gay.

Later Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama shared the first lady's sentiments, "marveling at [Sam's] courage and congratulating him on the decisions he's made, on the support he's had from his team and wishing him well in the future, including in professional football."

Carney said he had not discussed with Obama whether Sam's draft stock could be hurt by his sexual orientation, but said the president believes it shouldn't matter.

"Any athlete's abilities should be measured in the traditional way, in terms of how he or she performs in the sport, and on the field, in this case. And in this case, his performance has been exceptional," Carney said.

Sam, named the Associated Press' SEC Defensive Player of the Year, hopes to become the first openly gay player in the NFL. In interviews with The New York Times and ESPN, he said his decision to speak out came after realizing many coaches evaluating him for the draft already seemed aware of his sexual orientation.

"I didn't realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me," he told ESPN. "I want to own my truth. ... No one else should tell my story but me."

Sam added that it was a "nervous process" to enter the NFL draft as an openly gay player, but said he was proud to do so.

"It's a big deal. No one has done this before," he said.

At the State of the Union address last month, the first lady hosted former NBA player Jason Collins, who also revealed publicly that he was gay.

President Obama said shortly after the revelation that he "couldn't be prouder" of Collins.

"He seems like a terrific young man, and I told him I couldn't be prouder," Obama said last year. "One of the extraordinary measures of progress that we've seen in this country has been 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."

This story was updated at 2:09 p.m.

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