By JOHN BRANCHAPRIL 9, 2014
Derrick Gordon, a guard at the University of Massachusetts, revealed that he is gay, joining a fast-growing list of publicly gay male college and professional athletes.
Last April, Jason Collins became the first N.B.A. player to announce he was gay. He currently plays for the Brooklyn Nets.
In February, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out publicly. The defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, he is expected to be drafted by an N.F.L. team next month. If and when he suits up in the fall, he could become the first publicly gay N.F.L. player.
Gordon, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard, started all 33 games for UMass and averaged 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. The Minutemen (24-9) reached the N.C.A.A. tournament, where they lost to Tennessee in their opening game.
It was last week, in a team meeting, that Gordon acknowledged to his teammates that he was gay. He had previously denied rumors about his sexual orientation, and only recently told the truth to his parents.
“ ’Happy’ is not even the word,” Gordon told Outsports. “It’s a great feeling. I haven’t felt like this. Ever. It’s a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders. I can finally breathe now and live life happily. I told all the people I need to tell.”
When he told his teammates last week, Gordon was accompanied by a pair of newfound allies — Anthony Nicodemo, an openly gay high school coach in New York, and Wade Davis, a former N.F.L. player and director of You Can Play, a group that advocates inclusion.
UMass Coach Derek Kellogg opened the meeting by speaking about the importance of diversity, and threw his full support behind Gordon.
“I have the most profound respect for Derrick and the decision he has made to come out publicly,” Kellogg said in a statement. “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.”
The university also released statements of support from Kumble R. Subbaswamy, its chancellor, and John McCutcheon, its athletic director.
Gordon starred at St. Patrick High School in New Jersey. He played his freshman year at Western Kentucky, where he was the leading scorer (11.7 points per game) and rebounder (6.7 per game) and helped the team to the N.C.A.A. tournament. He transferred to UMass and sat out a season, as required by N.C.A.A. rules.
Gordon credited Collins, and his February signing with the Nets, for giving him the confidence to come out. On Wednesday, Collins used Twitter to laud Gordon for making a similar difference.
“I’m so proud of @flash2gordon,” Collins wrote, using Gordon’s Twitter handle. “Another brave young man who is going to make it easier for so many others to live an authentic life.”