Division III kicker Conner Mertens has come out as the first openly bisexual active player in college football.
According to Cyd Ziegler of OutSports (h/t Yahoo Sports' Nick Bromberg), the Willamette freshman met with head coach Glen Fowles to discuss his sexuality last week and opened up to his teammates shortly after: "I'm bisexual. I like dudes. I have a boyfriend. And next week, I'm going to tell the world."
On Monday, Jan. 27, Mertens took to Twitter, posting a lengthy letter to express himself:
I don't ask for a lot of favors-but I'm cashing one in right now. Please take a minute to read this for me. pic.twitter.com/571c5v9NeO— Merts (@ConnerMertens) January 28, 2014
According to Ziegler, Fowles met with several team members following his private talk with Mertens to let them know what the freshman special teamer would reveal. Unsurprisingly, Mertens was apparently ready for adverse reactions following his address to the team, but instead he received support.
Regardless of the reaction, Mertens has clearly demonstrated tremendous courage in disclosing his sexuality to his coaches, teammates and the public.
Conner Mertens is awesome. I have the utmost respect for what he's doing, and I hope he's the first of many. #trailblazer— Stephen Oldfather (@old_spice19) January 28, 2014
As Bromberg points out, it was less than two years ago that junior college linebacker Jamie Kuntz alleged his North Dakota football team dismissed him after he kissed his boyfriend in a press box. The program cited a violation of team rules.
With horror stories like those discouraging others from coming out, it's fair to call Mertens a pioneer among active LGBT athletes in college or professional sports.
Now that Mertens has bravely made the entire world aware of his sexuality and relieved the pressure on himself and others, he can focus solely on being a student-athlete.
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