University of Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon is now the first openly gay player on a division one basketball team. He announced his coming out through articles on both ESPN.com and Outsports.com. He even gave ESPN an interview talking about his decision.
Nearly a year ago NBA star Jason Collins, center for the New Jersey Nets, became the first openly gay player. He was applauded and praised for his courage by the NBA and by others. His bravery inspired Derrick Gordon to do the same. A week before the articles came out he told his teammates, worried that they would no longer accept him but he was met with nothing but admiration and support.
“I have the most profound respect for Derrick and the decision he has made to come out publicly,” Derek Kellog, head coach, tweeted Wednesday. “He is a model student, a terrific competitor, but most importantly, he is a wonderful human being. We know his decision weighed heavily on him for some time, but as a coaching staff, a team and a family, we stressed to him that we support him in every way possible.”
Gordon admitted that he distanced himself from the team for a while, worrying that they would find out he was a homosexual. He turned down invitations to parties, and dinners with them as well as any outings they went on. Part of his decision to come out was so that he would no longer have to hide anything and so that he could finally participate in getting to know his teammates.
“I’ve lived my life hiding behind somebody who I wasn’t,” he told ESPN.com reporters. “I wasn’t really that close to anybody on this team because there was something I had to hide. So I distanced myself as soon as I got here, and nobody knew why I was doing that.”
Gordon started playing for UMass this past season and had an average of 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game played. He was part of the team that lead the Minutemen to their first NCAA tournament in 16 years.
Gordon will surely inspire other college players around the country the way that the pro players inspired him. Maybe his story was meant to be told in order to help other struggling players.
“This is the happiest I have ever been in my 22 Years of living,” he wrote on his Instagram. “No more HIDING!!!…Just want to live life happy and play the sport that I love.”