BOSTON (CBS) — Shortly after the University of Massachusetts’ men’s basketball team lost to Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament, sophomore guard Derrick Gordon made a life-changing decision.
Gordon decided that he would publicly come out, to his teammates and the rest of the world, becoming the first openly gay player in Division I men’s college basketball.
“I just didn’t want to hide anymore, in any way,” Gordon said in an interview with 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 made the announcement to his teammates at a team meeting last Wednesday with full support from the university and head coach Derek Kellogg. His teammates met the announcement with open arms.
“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.”
“Before, I usually just kept to myself because I didn’t want to lie or be fake,” Gordon said. “But not anymore. I feel so good right now. It’s like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
A Plainfield, New Jersey native and transfer from Western Kentucky, Gordon said the key moment for his decision came when the Brooklyn Nets signed center Jason Collins in February. Collins came out publicly last May, and became the first openly gay player in the NBA shortly after signing with Brooklyn.
“That was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn’t matter, that the NBA was OK with it,” Gordon told ESPN.
The 6-3 Gordon averaged 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in his first year at UMass, starting all 33 games for the Minutemen.
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