Derrick Gordon, a sophomore starter for the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team, stepped forward Wednesday as the first openly gay player in Division I men’s college basketball, sharing his story with ESPN and Outsports.
The 22-year-old shooting guard came out to his family, coaches and teammates in just a few days at the beginning of April. That’s when he also decided to publicly acknowledge his sexuality.
“I just didn’t want to hide anymore, in any way,” Gordon told 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 took to Twitter on Wednesday after the news broke.
This is the happiest I have ever been in my 22 Years of living…No more HIDING!!!…Just want to live… http://t.co/rR9KO8nGCu
– Derrick Gordon (@flash2gordon) April 9, 2014
Gordon, a native of Plainfield, N.J., said that a key moment for him came when the Brooklyn Nets signed veteran center Jason Collins to a 10-day contract in February. Collins, who publicly acknowledged his sexuality in April 2013, became the first openly gay player in NBA history when he took the court against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 23.
“That was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn’t matter, that the NBA was OK with it,” Gordon said.
Collins tweeted his support for Gordon on Wednesday.
I’m so proud of @flash2gordon. Another brave young man who is going to make it easier for so many others to live an authentic life. #courage
– Jason Collins (@jasoncollins34) April 9, 2014
A number of people in the UMass athletic administration worked closely with Gordon behind the scenes as he prepared to come out to his teammates.
“UMass is proud to have Derrick Gordon as a member of our athletic family and to honor his courage and openness as a gay student-athlete,” athletic director John McCutcheon said in a written statement. “UMass is committed to creating a welcoming climate where every student-athlete, coach and staff member can be true to themselves as they pursue their athletic, academic and professional goals.”
Gordon said he reached his decision to come out publicly in the days after the team’s first-round loss to Tennessee in the NCAA tournament on March 21.
“I just had a lot of time to myself, thinking, and I didn’t know what I was waiting for,” said Gordon, who transferred to UMass after one season at Western Kentucky.
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