One week ago, University of Massachusetts basketball player Derrick Gordon gathered his teammates to tell them he was gay.
Gordon, a starter who averaged 9.4 points per game last season, had come out to his parents only days before. He is the first openly gay Division I men’s basketball player.
“I want to be myself,” Gordon told ESPN in a televised interview. “I don’t want to hide and be someone I’m not.”
He drew courage from fellow athletes, including Jason Collins and Michael Sam. Gordon said he first considered coming out after the 2013 NCAA Tournament. When he finally told his family and teammates, Gordon said he instantly felt the relief of revealing his true self to those closest to him.
“It was a rough process, actually, leading up to this,” Gordon told ESPN. “Those guys just helped me get to where I am right now. If it wasn’t for them, I’d be stuck. For this to be happening right now, me coming out, it’s an indescribable feeling, honestly. I couldn’t be any happier. I feel like I can fly.”
Gordon said the response from teammates was unanimous in that they will “support me no matter what.”
With the team gathered, UMass coach Derek Kellogg, who was the first to know, encouraged teammates to support Gordon.
“We’re all here together, and we need to love each other for who we are,” he said. “One of your family members, your brother, wants to let you know something about himself.”
Kellogg said in a statement that the program will support Gordon in every way possible.
“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. 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.”
Sam, the University of Missouri football player and NFL draft hopeful who announced in February that he is gay, tweeted his congratulations to Gordon.
“Many congratulations to you Derrick Gordon @flash2gordon — you have so many in your corner and we’re all proud and rooting for you #courage.”