Less than two weeks after coming out as gay to his family and teammates, Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon has become the first openly gay player in men's college basketball.
Kate Fagan of ESPNW.com reports Gordon decided to go public with his decision to ease the pressure on him as both a player and a person. After Fagan's article was published, he posted the following on his Instagram account:
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
Gordon follows in the footsteps of the NBA player Jason Collins, WNBA player Brittney Griner and NFL draft prospect Michael Sam—active athletes who have made the same declaration.
Sam was quick to share his thoughts on Gordon's announcement:
Gordon forged a bond with former NFL player Wade Davis of the You Can Play Project, who introduced him to other members of the LGBT community, including Collins. They served as mentors in his quest to feel comfortable with publicly acknowledging his sexuality.
Shortly after the Minutemen were eliminated from the NCAA tournament by Tennessee in the second round, Gordon made the choice to move forward. He said, via Fagan:
I was thinking about summer plans and just being around my teammates and how it was going to be. I just thought, "Why not now? Why not do it in the offseason when it's the perfect time to let my teammates know and everybody know my sexuality."
Fagan's report notes that Gordon started by informing his family. Although certain members of the group, most notably his father and twin brother, were more hesitant to provide support, they eventually gave him some words of encouragement.
Gordon also admitted he would talk about a long-distance girlfriend in order to fit in around teammates, which added another dynamic when he got in front of the team to tell them the news.
"I don't want to hide in front of my parents or relatives or anybody now," he said. "I want to be myself, be who I am, around everybody."
With the help of head coach Derek Kellogg, he told his teammates and received universal support. Kellogg would later note it was a quick meeting because of the immediate positive reaction.
Gordon concluded by stating he was happy to have the burden of hiding the truth lifted and was hoping for support as he played across the country.
I'm just so happy and excited to finally put this out there. And I'm interested in seeing the support I get from different states when I go play in those other arenas. Hopefully I'll finally see a gay flag in the stands, which I've never seen before. It's going to be interesting. It is.
Although Gordon isn't the first active athlete to come out, he can count himself among the select few brave enough to stand up for their true self. The relief he feels is apparent in his comments and rejuvenated demeanor, via Michael Whitmer of The Boston Globe:
Covered a lot of UMass hoops the last few months. I like watching Derrick Gordon play. I really like seeing him SMILE today.— Michael Whitmer (@GlobeWhitmer) April 9, 2014
Coming out publicly as gay remains a trend that's been slow to pick up steam in the sports community, but Gordon is the latest to show that times are changing. In the future, we will likely reach a point where such an announcement barely causes a blip on the radar as opposed to being major news.