A few weeks ago we ran the story of Notre Dame tennis player Matt Dooley, in conjunction with You Can Play. Today a couple pieces from Notre Dame itself bring the story new life. The video is great, and it's powerful to see his coach and teammates talk so openly about Dooley's sexual orientation. The written piece is also insightful. An excerpt:
Dooley knows what it's like to fight to survive and he also understands the depths of despair--the belief you might not be able to overcome the demons that hover around you every waking minute of every day. In 2011, after years of wrestling with his sexual identity, Dooley's depression became so severe that he tried to commit suicide and was hospitalized.
So he held no illusions that his decision to publicly state his homosexuality more than two years later would come without consequences or comment. Yet, despite the fact his family, friends, teammates and other at the University have offered incredible support after his announcement, Dooley understands it only takes one negative thought to send emotions spinning.
He knows this because, for a long time, so many of the negative thoughts came from himself.
Dooley is not an open book. Intelligent and well spoken, he has no problem articulating his thoughts. But he is clearly uncomfortable being the center of attention. He didn't seek the spotlight. Dooley insists he decided to share his story so publicly for two reasons.
The first was to propel the "You Can Play" initiative on Notre Dame's campus. "You Can Play" is a social activism campaign dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation. Centered around the slogan, "If you can play, you can play," the movement began in 2012 to honor the memory of Brendan Burke, a student manager for the Miami University hockey team who had worked to increase acceptance of the gay community in hockey before dying in a car accident.
Although each of the University's 26 athletic teams had agreed to participate in the national campaign's signature video series before Dooley went public, his announcement created a personal connection to the program's mantra.