Derrick Gordon, a sophomore starter on the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team, revealed that he was gay in an interview with ESPN on Wednesday, becoming the first openly gay Division I men's basketball player in the NCAA.
"I just didn't want to hide anymore, in any way," Gordon said. "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 said he came out to his teammates on April 2, shortly after his team lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Tennessee on March 21.
Teammates met Gordon's announcement with support and understanding, and the 6'3" player says he can now be himself. "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."
"From speaking with Derrick, I realized the pressure he had, the weight that was on his shoulders," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "You can already see in his demeanor that he is so much happier. I actually think this is something that brings our team closer together and helps Derrick play more freely."
Gordon tweeted shortly after the news broke:
I am the first Division 1 male basketball player to come out and not the last. I AM gay. I'm not afraid. I'm not alone.
— Derrick Gordon (@DerrickGordon02) April 9, 2014
Gordon said he was inspired to publicly come out by veteran NBA player Jason Collins, who came out as gay in Sports Illustrated in April 2013. He signed a contract with the Brooklyn Nets in February, making him the first openly gay NBA player. "That was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn't matter, that the NBA was OK with it," Gordon said.
Collins also took to Twitter to support Gordon on Wednesday:
— Jason Collins (@jasoncollins34) April 9, 2014
The University of Massachusetts also voiced support for the student athlete, who averaged 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game this season. "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."