AMHERST, Mass. – University of Massachusetts Amherst basketball player Derrick Gordon announced publicly that he identifies as a gay man. With this announcement, Gordon becomes the first publicly gay player in men’s Division I college basketball history.
A 6-foot, 2-inch, 205-pound redshirt sophomore, Gordon was a strong contributor for the Minutemen who advanced to the NCAA tournament this season. He started all 33 games at shooting guard, averaging 9.4 points, 2 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. Gordon was inspired to announce his sexual orientation publicly with the hopes that it would help the next generation of gay athletes stay in sports.
Said Gordon, “I’ve always loved sports but always felt I had to hide and be someone that I’m not. For my whole life I’ve been living my life as a lie. I am telling my story so that athletes never feel like they have to hide. You can be true to yourself and play the sport that you love.”
The announcement was made in stories and interviews conducted by Kate Fagan of espnW and Cyd Zeigler of Outsports.com.Both writers sat with Gordon for extended interviews within the past week. Gordon informed his coaches and teammates earlier in the week, having conversations with them over a period of several days. He has received universal support from the Minutemen athletic community.
Said Head Coach Derek Kellogg, “I have the most profound respect for Derrick and the decision he has made to come out publicly. 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. Derrick is a first-class representative of this University and this program since he joined us, and we are all very proud of him.”
Kellogg’s support was echoed strongly by Director of Athletics John McCutcheon who stated, “UMass Athletics is proud to have Derrick Gordon as a member of our athletic family and honor his courage and openness as a gay student-athlete. UMass Athletics 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.”
Ensuring that Gordon has support from even the highest levels of the UMass community, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy proudly affirmed, “I truly admire Derrick Gordon for making the courageous decision to come out publicly. Derek is a superb student-athlete who represents our campus with distinction. The poise and confidence with which he has shared his personal story embody our campus’s shared values of respect, inclusion and diversity.”
You Can Play, a non-profit that works to end homophobia in sports, worked quietly with Gordon for months as he prepared himself to open up this aspect of his life to teammates, coaches and family. Wade Davis and Anthony Nicodemo spent significant time preparing Gordon for the coming-out process. In addition, both Davis and Nicodemo were present when Gordon informed his teammates to support him and assist with any questions, concerns or discussions the team wished to have.
Davis, You Can Play’s executive director, said, “I was deeply moved watching Derrick open his heart to his UMass basketball family. His desire to invite his teammates into his life speaks to how athletes view their teammates as their family. I love being a part of an organization that continues to foster the creation of safe spaces for all individuals to be their authentic selves.”