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University of Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon has come out as gay, becoming the first player in Division I men’s basketball ever to do so. Gordon made the public announcement in a conversation with ESPN’s Kate Fagan, where he said that he told his teammates on April 2, a few days after coming out to his parents.
Gordon broke the news at a team meeting after speaking to head coach Derek Kellogg, and said the response from his fellow Minutemen was overwhelmingly positive. Gordon credited the precedents of Jason Collins and Michael Sam for helping him make the decision to go public.
NBA veteran and former Celtic Collins came out in a first-person cover story in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated. After going unsigned for the better part of this season, he joined the Brooklyn Nets in late February, initially on a 10-day contract before signing until the end of the season, his 13th in the league, thus becoming the first openly gay player in any of the four major North American sports. Collins has been warmly received by fans at Nets games thus far.
Missouri defensive end Sam, for his part, appeared on ESPN after the end of his senior season to announce his own homosexuality. Sam was an All-American in 2013 for a Tigers team that won the Cotton Bowl. While the hate group Westboro Baptist Church organized protests on campus, hundreds of people showed up to oppose them in support of Sam. He will almost surely become the first openly gay player in NFL history, although his lack of size at 6’2″ has analysts torn on where he’ll be selected in next month’s Draft.
Gordon, a native of Plainfield, New Jersey, began his college career at Western Kentucky, where he only spent his freshman year before transferring to UMass, forcing him to sit out the 2012-13 season. This year, he averaged 9.4 points on 47.8% field goal shooting, with 3.5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.5 steals as the Minutemen reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998, where they were blown out by Tennessee in the Round of 64. Gordon had 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting in the loss.
Gordon seems like a long shot to follow in Collins’s footsteps and reach the NBA, but whether or not he eventually goes pro after his college career is over, he will be remembered for his historic announcement.