Derrick Gordon, a sophomore starter for the University of Massachusetts’ basketball team, announced Wednesday that he is gay, becoming the first openly gay athlete in Division I men’s hoops.
Gordon, 22, came out to his family, coaches and teammates at the beginning of April before deciding to go public following UMass’ loss in the NCAA basketball tournament last month, telling ESPN that he "didn’t want to hide anymore, in any way."
"I didn’t want to have to lie or sneak," Gordon said. "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 said that he took inspiration from Jason Collins, who came out in April 2013 and became the first openly gay athlete in NBA history when he took the court for the Brooklyn Nets this season."That was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn’t matter, that the NBA was okay with it," Gordon said.
Collins tweeted his support for Gordon on Wednesday, calling him "another brave young man who is going to make it easier for so many others to live an authentic life."
During his first season at UMass, Gordon started all 33 of the Minutemen’s games and helped the team earn its first NCAA tournament bid since 1998. In a statement, his coach, Derek Kellogg, described him as "a terrific competitor," and said he had "the most profound respect" for his decision to come out.
"We know his decision weighed heavily on him for some time, but as a team and a family, we stressed to him that we support him in every way possible," Kellogg said. "Derrick is a first-class representative of this university and this program. . . and we are all very proud of him."
Gordon's announcement follows in the footsteps of University of Missouri football star Michael Sam, who came out as gay in February, and is expected to be chosen in next month’s NFL Draft, which would make him that league’s first out athlete.