NBA player Jason Collins: ‘I hope other sports stars will follow my lead and come out’

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In his first interview since coming out as gay, basketball player Jason Collins says he hopes other professional athletes will follow his lead.

On Monday, he declared in a Sports Illustrated article: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

Collins subsequently received an overwhelming amount of praise from US political leaders, sports figures and celebrities.

The White House said President Obama had called Collins to tell him he was impressed with his courage.

First Lady Michelle Obama sent a simple message of support to Collins: “We’ve got your back,” she said on Twitter.

Speaking to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview on Monday night, Collins revealed he was surprised to be the first active male athlete in a major American sport to come out as gay: “That’s kind of mind-boggling… I never set out to be the first.”

“I’m ready to raise my hand but, you know, you still look around like, ‘OK, come on guys.’

“It’s time for someone else in the room to raise their hand and say: ‘You know what? Yeah, so big deal. I can still play basketball. I can still help the team win, and that’s what’s most important,'” he added.

Several male athletes have previously come out after retirement from sport in the US, including the former NBA star John Amaechi.

In an interview to the Associated Press, Amaechi revealed he spoke to Jason Collins ahead of Monday’s announcement.

“I told him there isn’t anything negative about it,” Amaechi said. “Being out is better than being in – unreservedly.”