Derrick Gordon Becomes First Openly Gay Player in NCAA

News & Views | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 04/09/2014 | 11:45 AM EDT

22-year-old says he was teased by teammates before publicly revealing his sexuality

Another milestone has been made in the world of sports, as college basketball player Derrick Gordon has revealed that he is gay.


The sophomore starter at the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team shared the news in a public statement, becoming the first openly gay male NCAA Division 1 basketball player.


"I've always loved sports, but always felt I had to hide and be someone that I'm not," Gordon said in a statement. "For my whole life I've been living my life as a lie. I am telling my story so that athletes never feel like they have to hide. You can be true to yourself and play the sport that you love."


The 22-year-old said he came out to his family and teammates early April, telling ESPN that a turning point for him was when first openly gay NBA player Jason Collins signed a contract with the Brooklyn Nets in February.


JASON COLLINS JOINS NETS AS FIRST OPENLY GAY ACTIVE PLAYER IN SPORTS


"That was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn't matter, that the NBA was OK with it," he said.


But Gordon’s brave and precedent decision wasn’t made without its share of struggles. He admitted to "struggling with teasing from teammates and internal torment that nearly drove him from basketball,” according to OutSports. Gordon said he was afraid he might be recognized at gay bars or that his friends might see a message from an ex-boyfriend. But when he finally told his teammates about his sexuality there "wasn't a dry eye in the room," as they realized the effect their teasing had on him.


WHY COMING OUT AS GAY IS STILL A BIG DEAL


Gordon said that while he will continue to focus on basketball, he wants to help encourage more openness in the sports arena.


"When kids aren't able to come out, I know why. It's a scary thing," he said. "That's one of the reasons I'm doing this. I want to give kids some courage and someone they can look up to. If I can come out and play basketball, then why can't they do it? I want to be able to help those people."

(Photo: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

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