Derrick Gordon, a sophomore guard for the Massachusetts Minutemen, becomes the first openly gay Division I men’s college basketball player. Per Outsports:
Last Wednesday, at the request of redshirt sophomore shooting guard Derrick Gordon, University of Massachusetts men’s basketball head coach Derek Kellogg called a team meeting. Two weeks after his team’s upset loss to Tennessee in the NCAA tournament, Gordon had a secret he wanted to share with them, one that in a week’s time he would share with the world: He’s gay. No active male athlete in Division 1 college basketball, football, baseball or hockey had ever said those words publicly. After years of waiting for someone else to break the barrier, Gordon wasn’t going to wait any longer.
With the players and assistant coaches gathered in a room, Kellogg addressed the team. Gordon sat to the side, along with two confidants he had recruited for support: You Can Play’s Wade Davis and high school basketball coach Anthony Nicodemo. The two men had been instrumental in guiding Gordon through the coming out process.
Kellogg regaled the men with talk about the importance of diversity. Everyone on the team comes from a different background, he said; everyone brings something different to the court. Then, Kellogg broke the ice.
“I just wanted you all to know,” Kellogg said, “I’m gay.”
The team sat silently in disbelief. Since Kellogg had been married to his wife for almost nine years, the players knew something was up.
His legs literally shaking, Gordon stepped in front of the team and shared his truth. It had been a long journey to that team meeting, defined by both struggle and triumph, so much of which revolved around the basketball court.
The transfer from Western Kentucky University nearly quit basketball last autumn after sitting out the previous season due to NCAA regulations. He was a big acquisition for the Minuteman, “instant offense” with the ability to shoot the jumper or drive hard to the basket. Fans – and Gordon himself – were excited by the prospects of his next three years in Amherst.
That was all nearly derailed when Gordon’s then-boyfriend last summer posted a photograph on Instagram of the two of them in front of a gay bar on the New Jersey coast. Gordon was wary of the post but figured there was little chance someone would stumble across the photo on a random Instagram account and identify him and said gay bar. Shortly after the post, almost as though he wanted to be discovered, Gordon “liked” the photograph online. Within hours, some of his teammates asked him if he were gay.
Gordon denied it repeatedly, but that didn’t stop various members of the team from teasing him about it. The snickers and snide remarks carried on for weeks. Slowly, it consumed him.
“That was probably the lowest point I was ever at. I didn’t want to play basketball anymore. I just wanted to run and hide somewhere. I used to go back to my room and I’d just cry. There were nights when I would cry myself to sleep.
Most of the time when you see me on campus, I’m alone. … I feel like I can’t be who I am or live my life.”
“Nobody should ever feel that way.”
When Gordon eventually confronted his team – again asserting he was straight and demanding they stop harassing him – the teasing slowed. Yet the damage was already done. Throughout the season – all the way into the NCAA tournament last month – some teammates continued to wait until Gordon was done in the locker room before they would venture into the showers. The “gay” label lingered. The treatment built distance between him and the rest of the team. Gordon responded by isolating himself, which in turn was met with more distance from various players.