Derrick Gordon is first openly gay Division I men’s basketball player (video)


(Ty Wright / AP)

Derrick Gordon, a University of Massachusetts guard, announced this morning that he is gay, becoming the first openly gay male basketball player in Division I.

Gordon, a redshirt sophomore, told Outsports that he’d informed the team and Coach Derek Kellogg a week ago in an emotional meeting. From Outsports:

[A]fter his team’s upset loss to Tennessee in the NCAA tournament, Gordon had a secret he wanted to share with them, one that in a week’s time he would share with the world: He’s gay. No active male athlete in Division 1 college basketball, football, baseball or hockey had ever said those words publicly. After years of waiting for someone else to break the barrier, Gordon wasn’t going to wait any longer.

With the players and assistant coaches gathered in a room, Kellogg addressed the team. Gordon sat to the side, along with two confidants he had recruited for support: You Can Play’s Wade Davis and high school basketball coach Anthony Nicodemo. The two men had been instrumental in guiding Gordon through the coming out process.

Kellogg regaled the men with talk about the importance of diversity. Everyone on the team comes from a different background, he said; everyone brings something different to the court. Then, Kellogg broke the ice.

“I just wanted you all to know,” Kellogg said, “I’m gay.”

Athletes are increasingly coming out of the closet since Jason Collins became the first openly gay active player in major men’s sports in North America a year ago; he continues to play for the Brooklyn Nets. Brittney Griner, the former Baylor star, announced that she is openly gay after her career at the school ended and recently said she was asked to not announce the news while she was still in college. Shortly after the Super Bowl, Michael Sam, a University of Missouri football player, announced that he is gay and he is likely to become the first openly gay player taken in the NFL draft next month. Sam tweeted words of encouragement to Gordon.

Gordon wrote on Instagram: “This is the happiest I have ever been in my 22 Years of living…No more HIDING!!!…Just want to live life happy and play the sport that I love…Really would love to thank my family, friends, coaches, and teammates for supporting me….I would also like to thank my support team Wade Davis, Jason Collins, Brian Sims, Micah Porter, Anthony Nicodemo, Patrick Burke,Billy Bean, Gerald McCullough, Kirk Walker…You guys are AWESOME!!! Ready to get back in the gym with my teammates and get on the GRIND and get ready for next season!!!! #BETRUE #BEYOURSELF #HONEYBADGER”

For Gordon, acceptance among his teammates wasn’t instanteous. There had been rumors after a photo of him and his then-boyfriend at a gay bar appeared on Instagram. Gordon “liked” the photo online and teammates, according to his Outsports interview, began asking if he were gay. He denied it, but was teased and some players, he said, waited until after he had showered to go into the bathroom. Gordon considered quitting the sport and says “No one should ever feel that way.” His announcement to his teammates was a “powerful” moment, according to Nicodemo.

“Even Wade and I got a little teary-eyed when he started to choke up,” Nicodemo told Outsports. “I thought it went as well as it could go. His teammates listened, they pledged their support to him. I was really impressed with how coach Kellogg handled it. As coaches we have our won philosophy of what ‘program’ means. This showed some real strength in his philosophy. Nobody is going to be left out of the mix.”

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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