What an awesome time to be involved in the LGBT sports movement. During the past year, so many high-profile athletes have announced that they are gay. Jason Collins in the NBA, Michael Sam heading to the NFL and now Derrick Gordon, the first openly gay NCAA Division I basketball player.
I had the pleasure of recently becoming friends with Derrick. In my initial meetings I knew that he would be ready to make this historic move. I often talk about the process of coming out and how different everyones timetable is. His confidence throughout out the process has been amazing. Derrick knew he needed to make this move and along the journey wanted to let others like him know, they could be a successful athlete and be gay.
When he asked me to join him in the locker room as he shared his hidden life with his team, I was humbled. I took the ride to Amherst with my friend Wade Davis and discussed various social issues along the way. Speaking with UMass head coach Derek Kellogg the night Derrick came out and prior to the announcement, I knew that he would have the support he needed. Kellogg was very comfortable with the situation and more than ready to deal with whatever would come.
Derrick Gordon finds his freedom
After a year of isolation, gay UMass basketball player Derrick Gordon discovered the strength to share his truth with family and teammates. He becomes the first active male NCAA Div. 1 basketball player to come out publicly.
As the the staff and members of the UMass administration entered the media room moments before Gordon came out to them, the players knew something was up. Redshirt guard Jabari Hinds, a Lower Hudson Basketball Coaches Association two-time Mr. Basketball recipient, turned to me wondering what I was doing in the room. Derrick's revelation gave me chills. Throughout the conversation he broke down twice, causing a wave of emotion within myself. The courage that he was displaying was tremendous.
The players reacted with respect and love for their brother. They did not seem shocked and were ready to embrace him. Hugs around the room. Before leaving campus Wade Davis and I reinforced the support that Derrick would have from the community. We left with smiles on our faces excited for what would happen in the coming weeks.
Knowing the announcement would becoming within a week, I spent the prior weekend with Derrick in New York City. Davis, Patrick Burke, Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup and Outsports' Cyd Zeigler joined us at various points to reinforce the brotherhood that has been created. I often say that no one can understand coming out, unless you have lived it. Everyone in the group has come out or been a major part of someone doing so.
So here we are, another brick in the wall has been removed. Somewhere a high school athlete is reading the story saying, "Wow, I can do this." He understands that there is support, places and people to reach out who will guide and help you with the process, on your time. When the time comes, he can thank Derrick Gordon.