Michael Sam and the Missouri football team were honored at a basketball game Saturday. (L.G. Patterson / AP)

In an interview with Charles Barkley, President Barack Obama weighed in on Michael Sam, praising the Missouri football player for announcing that he is gay before the NFL draft in May.

“I really like the fact that Michael did it before the draft,” Obama said in the TNT interview that aired before the NBA all-star game, “because his attitude was, ‘You know what? I know who I am. I know I can play great football and judge me on the merits.'”

Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL and Barkley noted that Jason Collins, the former NBA player who came out a year ago, was a guest at the State of the Union address. Last week benefits were extended to same-sex couples who are federal employees last week and that prompted Obama to address the significance of other barriers that have fallen, especially in sports.

“Think about basketball. You think about what the NBA was before African Americans were allowed to play on an equal footing,” Obama said..

“You think about some the stories that even folks like Oscar Robertson tell of what they went through. You think about what Jackie Robinson ended up meaning, not just to baseball, but to the entire society. I wouldn’t be sitting here if it weren’t for him. I think America is stronger where everybody is being treated with respect and dignity.”

(Video via SB Nation)