University of Massachusetts sophomore guard Derrick Gordon announced to the world Wednesday morning that he is gay, making him the first gay active NCAA Division I men's basketball player.
Gordon chose to reveal his sexuality to everyone, including family, teammates, and the rest of the world, all very suddenly within the last few days, according to reports from ESPN's Kate Fagan and Outsports' Cyd Zeigler. About a year ago, Gordon reached out to Wade Davis, president of the equal rights organization You Can Play! Project, who was present when Gordon made his announcement to the team. “I feel like a bunch of weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can fly," Gordon said in an interview on SportsCenter.
The 22-year-old almost quit basketball last year, after a rogue Instagram post nearly outed him to teammates. Some fellow players noticed the picture and teased him about it. "That was probably the lowest point I was ever at. I didn’t want to play basketball anymore," he tells OutSports now. "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."
At first, Gordon didn't want to be the first one through the door. The Plainfield, New Jersey, native was content to sit back and watch someone else go first. But then, over the course of the last month, he had a change of heart. Gordon began speaking with Davis more frequently, and hope grew out of the depression that kept him isolated from his family and teammates. "I just didn't want to hide anymore, in any way," Gordon told ESPN. Watching Jason Collins come out and eventually sign with the Brooklyn Nets helped him come to a conclusion. "I didn't want to have to lie or sneak. I've been waiting and watching for the last few months, wondering when a Division I player would come out, and finally I just said, 'Why not me?'"
But almost immediately after Gordon made the announcement to the Minutemen locker room on April 2, he was accepted by his teammates:
According to Gordon, after he made his announcement, one of his teammates immediately spoke up and said, "We got you; you're one of us." Afterward, Gordon and four other members of the team ate dinner together.
"He looked happier, stress-free, like that was the real him," fellow sophomore Tyler Bergantino told ESPN. "Before, when he would walk into the locker room, there was this cloud around him, like you couldn't quite get to him."
Gordon now joins other athletic trailblazers like the Collins, NFL prospect Michael Sam, Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, and L.A. Galaxy star Robbie Rogers as some of the most high-profile out athletes in America. Gordon was already well-known in the Massachusetts sports scene, and some beat reporters who grew to know him during his time with the Minutemen voiced their support Wednesday morning, too:
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