Meet the sports world’s latest game-changer.
Following in the footsteps of athletes Jason Collins, Michael Sam, and Mitch Eby, University of Massachusetts basketball player Derrick Gordon announced this week that he is gay, making him the first active male athlete in all of Division 1 to publicly come out.
Speaking with ESPN in an interview Tuesday, Gordon said he felt “awesome.”
“I honestly thought I wasn’t going to feel this way for three, four years later,” he said. “It’s an undescribable [sic] feeling.”
After masking his sexual orientation for years, Gordon came out to his teammates last Wednesday, two weeks after their upset loss to Tennessee in the NCAA tournament. To lighten the mood, head coach Derek Kellogg – who’s been married to his wife for nearly a decade – announced first: “I just wanted you all to know that I’m gay.”
“He said we should start it off funny,” said Gordon of his coach’s fake coming out. “Everybody looked at my coach surprised. Soon as I said it, everybody wasn’t surprised at all. They were like, ‘’Bout time you admit it.’”
Gordon said his teammates told him they’d support him “no matter what” and that his announcement wouldn’t change anything.
“And that’s what I want,” he said. “I don’t want them to feel that they have to act a different way around me or be a different way.”
It’s a big shift from just last summer, when Gordon’s then-boyfriend posted a picture on Instagram of the two of them outside of a New Jersey gay bar. The photo prompted some questions, and even though Gordon denied being gay, he still received snickers and snide remarks.
“That was probably the lowest point I was ever at,” said Gordon in an interview with OutSports. “I didn’t want to play basketball anymore. I just wanted to run and hide somewhere. I used to go back to my room and I’d just cry. There were nights when I would cry myself to sleep.”
But those days are gone. Gordon took to Twitter Wednesday to declare his happiness:
Gordon’s announcement is the latest piece of evidence that the sports world is undergoing a cultural transformation, one where locker rooms will no longer be a bastion of machismo and homophobia. OutSports has chronicled approximately two dozen athletes this year who have chosen to come out publicly as gay. Not only are they being accepted by their teammates; they’re becoming a source of pride.
Take this photo from the University of Virginia’s swim team if you need more proof: