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Ellen DeGeneres is praising NBA player Jason Collins for his decision to come out as the first openly gay professional athlete.
The Washington Wizards player made headlines Monday after revealing his sexuality in a first-person feature for Sports Illustrated.
“You have no idea what a big deal that is,” she says in her monologue on Tuesday’s The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “He’s the first professional athlete to reveal he’s gay while he’s still playing. A lot of players, well, not a lot, some players have come out after they’ve retired, but no active player has ever come out before.”
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DeGeneres — who saw her own career take a downturn when she came out on the cover of Time magazine in 1997 — also called Collins a “role model” and encouraged viewers to follow his lead to “be who you are.” She also joked that the 7-foot-tall athlete had to “duck” when he came out of the closet.
“I applaud you,” she continued. “Jason Collins, I applaud you. That is a very brave man. I would high-five you but I don’t think I can reach you. But when I see you, I am gonna hug your knees so hard.
“So, so brave. Really, you’re an incredible role model. Because of you, there’s a little boy playing basketball right now who knows he can be who he is and play the sport that he loves. Now that little boy’s only obstacle is that he’s gonna be 5’4” and terrible at basketball. But you’ve done your part.”
At the end of her monologue, she dedicated a dance to the athlete.
Collins will give his first on-air interview since coming out to George Stephanopoulos. The ABC News segment will premiere during Tuesday’s Good Morning America.
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