by Rachel Holtzman
As the world of athletics becomes more inclusive, it gives millions of LGBTQ athletes a chance to be who they are in spite of fear of rejection and discrimination. On April 9, Derrick Gordon, a point guard on the basketball team at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, became the first openly gay Division I athlete after coming out during an interview with CNN. Previous backlash against gay athletes has made some wonder if coming out publicly is worth it. But more than ever, Gordon’s declaration shows the positive impact the coming-out of athletes has on people worldwide.
Every time a prominent athlete comes out, there are people on Twitter or Facebook who have to ask, “Why is this a story?” Here’s why: Derrick Gordon is 22 years old. He was in the closet for a decade and said that he lived in fear of his friends, family and teammates finding out and rejecting him. But after NBA player Jason Collins came out last year, Gordon said he practically “wanted to come out the next day,” according to an interview on cbs.com.
This is the kind of legacy that can change high school athletes’ lives. Gordon graduated from high school in 2011 from St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, NJ, according to wkuherald.com. Gordon is young enough and local enough that students can relate to and identify with Gordon. He may not know how teams other than his own will react, but when he came out at UMass, he received support from his teammates, current coach and even his high school coach, Anthony Nicodermo. That kind of positive reaction could be enough to help other athletes in the same situation, whether they’re in professional leagues or play on high school teams.
In order to continue making progress and increase acceptance, it is important for parents, coaches, and commentators to highlight Gordon’s actions as brave and inspiring. With his help, the stigma around LGBTQ athletes may start to vanish in locker rooms nationwide, and all sports teams will become safe places for LGBTQ students.