Derrick Gordon just completed his first regular season as an openly gay college basketball player for the University of Massachusetts, the only such Division I men's player. Here are all the gay slurs opposing fans have hurled against Gordon this year:
Yes, crickets. Gordon has not heard anything anti-gay yelled this season while he played for the Minutemen, who head to the Atlantic 10 Conference playoffs this week in a bid to make the NCAA tournament. As the Washington Post reported:
The first regular season for the first openly gay Division I men's basketball player ... has managed to yield zero anti-gay slurs, taunts, barbs, jeers or insults.
It did, of course, see other attempts at discombobulating.
"They would talk about my mohawk," Gordon said, then he laughed as he does serially, being pretty much 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds of bursting happiness these days. In a land chockablock with studious fans prone to learn the names of opposing players' girlfriends, zero fans seized upon a detail 20th century fans might have relished.
Another fear about coming out bites the dust. The story -- written by my friend Chuck Culpepper, a fantastic writer who is himself openly gay -- notes that coming out has been nothing but personally positive to Gordon. He is sought by other gay athletes, in and out of the closet, as a role model. Coming out took away any fear he had of having to hide and it was helped immensely by how well his coach and teammates conducted themselves.
"There has been no worrying," said Gordon, 23. "Every day I'm always happy, smiling, playing the game that I love. It's just like, honestly, I haven't felt like this in a long time - ever, to be honest with you. . . . Ever since I came out, the places that I've been, the people that I've met, it's just like, man, I should have come out in high school! It's just a whole new world out there. I love it."
I have long thought that hostile fans would not be an issue for an out American athlete (international soccer is another matter). Yelling "fag" out loud at a stadium would be bad for the fan who yelled it and I think even fans of the same team would turn on such a person. Even Gordon surmised that homophobes might be keeping quiet lest their fellow fans turn on them. That's progress.
At 17-14, UMass will have to win the A-10 tourney to make the NCAA tournament, so from that standpoint the season has been a struggle. But more importantly, the way in which the first openly gay Division I men's basketball player was embraced by his team and thrived has made it a resounding success.