When My-King Johnson is officially on the roster of the University of Arizona football team this fall as a freshman, he will make history as the first openly gay FBS scholarship player. When he plays for the first time — perhaps Sept. 2 in the season opener — he will also make history.
And in four years, he could potentially make history again if he is fortunate enough to be drafted and play on an NFL team. It’s a long way off, but King has the chance to reach the pros in what has been called an “organic” way.
The idea is that any male pro team athlete who is openly gay all through college would have an easier time since his sexual orientation will be old news by the time he graduates. It’s an idea we at Outsports have been hearing from athletes, coaches and educators for years when discussing gay men in sports. King will be a classic example of that idea in action and the first in football (Derrick Gordon came out as a Division I college basketball player in 2014 as a junior.)
Since he has yet to play a down in college, we obviously have no idea if King, 17, will be able to reach the pros The point here is that he will be out as a gay man for every minute of his college career, so should he be good enough to play in the NFL, his coming out will have well chronicled.
He is aware of the importance of coming out publicly, telling the Arizona Daily Star: “I do feel like when I say that, it can put a target on my back.” There will no doubt be fans mocking him for being gay, but having been open on his high school team, King signed with an Arizona program that knew what it was getting.
He has the support of his coaches — and I am confident his teammates — and as a highly rated recruit has a chance to make an immediate impact on Arizona’s defense. He is already saying the right thing:
I'm just here to play football.— My-King Johnson (@kingj9943) February 25, 2017
He’s correct. King does not have to give speeches at HRC dinners or become an LGBT right advocate. He can if he so chooses, but his biggest impact for LGBT visibility will be what he does on the field every week and hopefully for many years to come.