The openly gay comedian Ellen DeGeneres warmly welcomed a self-described “old, fat, white guy from Texas” to her Los Angeles studio this week, introducing a mostly female audience to a brash TV sports personality who is certainly well-known in North Texas but who unexpectedly came to wider attention this week.
“Speaking as a gay person, we really do need people like you,” DeGeneres told WFAA/Chanel 8 anchor Dale Hansen during the seven-minute segment.
“We need heterosexual people that speak out … because I can only do so much and say so much.”
Hansen and his wife, Chris, flew to Los Angeles for the taping of the Valentine’s Day themed show on Thursday. The show aired at 1 p.m. Friday on KXAS/Channel 5. Kevin Costner was another guest.
During decades on Dallas-Fort Worth TV and radio, Hansen’s never been shy about sharing his thoughts on current affairs, usually linked at least loosely to sports.
But his commentary Monday night during a “Hansen Unplugged” segment evidently startled some viewers.
Hansen’s topic was the NFL’s reaction in particular and the public reaction in general to the announcement by Missouri defensive end and draft prospect Michael Sam that he is gay and wants to play football professionally.
Hansen told people who are “uncomfortable” about gays in locker rooms to get over it, and lambasted NFL officials for tacitly accepting criminal behavior by some players while saying that Sam’s admission that he is gay could hurt his draft chances.
The segment went viral on YouTube and websites, and DeGeneres invited Hansen to be on her show.
Hansen told DeGeneres that he’s gotten some heat for the commentary, but that overall, the reaction has been positive.
“I’ve gotten calls from Christians, some who don’t like me now, from atheists, old people, young people, black, white, Jewish, Catholic, every spectrum of America,” Hansen told DeGeneres. “Almost every state of the union has called and the response has been so incredibly overwhelmingly positive that I think there is a pretty good future, if not for me, there’s a pretty good future for my children and my grandchildren.”
Hansen had said earlier that he was shocked by the reaction to the commentary.
Possibly some of the attention has to do with stereotyping of sports reporters and Texans, Hansen told DeGeneres.
“I think a lot of people who saw it … painted me with that same stereotype,” Hansen said. “They just automatically assume that a Michael Sam can’t play in the NFL if he’s gay. They might automatically assume that an old, fat, white guy from Texas would be opposed to that. I think we’re slowly breaking down the barriers from both sides.”
The segment began on an easy-going note, with Hansen mentioning that he had seen DeGeneres perform years ago at a Dallas club and that she hadn’t changed a bit.
“I am so proud of him,” his wife said from the audience, adding that she watches the show every day. “This is the greatest Valentine’s gift in the world, to be on Ellen!”
When she mentioned where she was when she learned that DeGeneres was inviting her husband to be on the show, Chris Hansen taught the world the correct pronunciation of Waxahachie.
“It did get me nominated for Husband of the Decade,” Dale Hansen quipped. “I’m working on the millennium. And I thank [DeGeneres] for giving me the cheapest Valentine’s gift I’ve ever given.”
It might not be Hansen’s last appearance.
“I want to help you give your wife another Valentine’s Day gift,” DeGeneres said. “Not only was this probably enough for her, but we want you to come back for one of our 12 Days of Giveaways. I’ll see you again.”