Yesterday morning, Washington Wizards NBA player Jason Collins came out to Sports Illustrated: "I'm a 34-year-old black center. I'm black. And I'm gay."
Collins, who will officially become a free agent this summer, is the first professional athlete to come out while an active member of a major sports team (unless you count closeted fictional aging professional football player Sean Jackson played by Eric Dane in the movie "Valentine's Day," but even he only came out after his contract was dropped).
Today, the very verbal Ellen DeGeneres dedicates her monologue on "Ellen" to the NBA star. "It was challenging for him," she said. "He is 7 feet tall, so when he came out of the closet, he had to duck." DeGeneres, who rocketed to stardom after she came out, alternates between serious -- praising Collins for choosing to be himself and thereby inspiring countless others to do the same -- and her trademark snark. "Because of you," she says, "there's a little boy playing basketball right now who knows he can be who he is and play the sport he loves. Now that little boy's only obstacle is that he's gonna be 5'4" and terrible at basketball."
DeGeneres promises to hug Jason's knees "so hard" when she sees him, and hopefully that moment will happen on her show. It's possible. In an exclusive interview with ABC News's George Stephanopoulos for "Good Morning America," Collins appeared joyful: "I know that I, right now, am the happiest that I've ever been in my life," Collins told Stephanopoulos. "A huge weight has been lifted. I've already been out to my family and my friends, but just to, you know, sort of rip the Band-Aid off and come out on my own terms."
His list of public supporters is long and impressive, including fellow baller Kobe Bryant and former President Bill Clinton. Of course, as is often the case in life, every party has a party pooper and this time, his name is ESPN analyst Chris Broussard. Broussard came under fire for blunt comments on ESPN's "Outside the Lines." Broussard said, "I'm a Christian. I don't agree with homosexuality. I think it's a sin…"
ESPN apologized, "We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today's news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins's announcement."
And Broussard tweeted some passive aggressive words: "Today…I offered my personal opinion as it relates to Christianity, a point of view that I have expressed publicly before. I realize that some people disagree with my opinion and I accept and respect that. As has been the case in the past, my beliefs have not and will not impact my ability to report on the NBA. I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement today and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA."
Whatever, dude. Let's dance.
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