First Lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton on Monday applauded Jason Collins for coming out gay.

In a cover story for Sports Illustrated, Collins, a 34-year-old NBA free agent, became the U.S.'s first openly gay professional athlete.

(Related: NBA's Jason Collins: First openly gay professional athlete.)

First Lady Michelle Obama messaged on Twitter: “So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We've got your back!”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Collins' decision was “another example of the progress that has been made and the evolution that has been taking place in this country.”

Clinton called the announcement an “important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community.”

“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 said in a statement.