University of Massachusetts Amherst basketball player Derrick Gordon has come out to his teammates, making him reportedly the first openly gay man to play college basketball.
“I just didn’t want to hide anymore, in any way,” Gordon said to ESPN. “I didn’t want to have to lie or sneak. I’ve been waiting and watching for the last few months, wondering when a Division I player would come out, and finally I just said, ‘Why not me?'”
Gordon told his team last week with the support of his coach Derek Kellogg, Wade Davis from You Can Play, and openly gay high school basketball coach Anthony Nicodemo. It followed some teasing from teammates who suspected that Gordon might be gay, and nearly an entire school year of not going out, not partying, and not socializing very much.
“Most of the time when you see me on campus, I’m alone,” he told Outsports. “I eat alone a lot. Since the school year started in September I haven’t been to one party.”
Gordon, a sophomore guard who averaged 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds a game this season, said he has been watching the news around New Jersey Nets player Jason Collins, who signed with the team after a lengthy free-agent period following his coming out last year. Gordon has been considering coming out since UMass’s first-round loss at the NCAA tournament against the University of Tennessee.
Kellogg released a statement, along with the University’s chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy, and athletics director John McCutcheon, sharing his support for Gordon.
“I have the most profound respect for Derrick and the decision he has made to come out publicly. He is a model student, a terrific competitor, but most importantly, he is a wonderful human being,” he said. “We know his decision weighed heavily on him for some time, but as a coaching staff, a team, and a family, we stressed to him that we support him in every way possible. Derrick is a first-class representative of this University and this program since he joined us and we are all very proud of him.”
Davis of the You Can Play Project also shared support for Gordon.
“I was deeply moved watching Derrick open his heart to his UMass basketball family. His desire to invite his teammates into his life speaks to how athletes view their teammates as their family,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “I love being a part of an organization that continues to foster the creation of safe spaces for all individuals to be their authentic selves.”