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Gay high school football player wins courage award for coming out

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My-King Johnson honored for his actions in Arizona.

My-King Johnson, a Phoenix-area high school football player, was honored by the Arizona Republic with its Courage Award. Johnson, who will play this fall at the University of Arizona, was given the award last week after he came out publicly in February in a profile in the Arizona Daily Star.

“My-King Johnson was one of three finalists for the Courage Award, which we present to student-athletes who show strength in the face of difficult or trying circumstances,” Arizona Republic sports editor Mark Faller told Outsports. “The other two finalists had their own challenges. One quarterbacked a football game two days after the unexpected death of his father. The other stood up to racist taunts directed at him at a basketball game.

“This is the second season of our program, which is a year-long salute to the best in high school sports culminating with a spring awards show. For all of our awards we canvass the state for nominees, select three finalists, then the staff votes to choose a winner, which is announced at the event.”

When he plays a down for Arizona this fall, Johnson will become the first openly gay player in college football’s FBS division. He has been out for years and played openly on his high school team. Arizona recruited the highly rated defensive lineman knowing he was openly gay.

Unfortunately, Johnson did not attend the awards ceremony. The invitation was sent by the Republic to Johnson’s high school coach, and wound up in his spam folder, Faller said. Unaware of why he never received an invitation, Johnson was upset and posted a critical message on Facebook (since deleted). The paper has reached out to him and personally offered to give him the award.

The moral of this — don’t rely on one email to send anything important to anyone. And despite his absence at the event, King should feel honored to receive the award since his being an openly gay athlete will mean a lot to a lot of people.