Umass Basketball Player Derrick Gordon Comes Out Of The Closet, But Are Locker Rooms Ready For Gay Athletes?
By Angel L. Quiles Jr.
In the past twelve months three brave male athletes, have stepped out of the shadows, and revealed to the world that they are attracted to men. Brooklyn Net Jason Collins began the pilgrimage out of the closet in 2013, when he announced publicly that he was a gay man. In February 2014 Michael Sam, defensive end on the Missouri Tigers declared his sexual orientation. Now Derrick Gordon from the University of Massachusetts basketball team, is the latest athlete to make the same announcement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. thought it was important to focus on “the content of one’s character.” But can sports, and homosexuality fit in the same locker room?
According to some NFL players I’ve interviewed such as, former all-pro linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, Shawn “lights out” Merriman, and full back Chris Ogbonnaya of the Cleveland Browns. Locker rooms will not be torn apart over the possibility of having openly gay teammates. “I always knew or suspected who may be gay. It was just something no one talked about. We looked at everyone as a brother… One thing people have to understand is, if you don’t know how to change your done. If you have a blackberry, and choose not to use a touch screen your behind. The world is moving and things are going in a different direction. If you’re not willing to change you’re going to wind up in quick sand.” said Merrriman. Chris Ogbonnyanna had this sentiment, “It all depends on the locker room, and how mature guys are and how strong their leadership is. In my opinion as long as you’re working hard, staying out of trouble, and helping us win games. That all that matters.”
Obogyanna hit the nail right on the head. The issue is maturity. In the case of Derrick Gordon, his teammates at Umass belittled him when they found out he was gay. They alienated him by having him shower on his own, and poked fun at pictures they saw with him, and his boyfriend at a gay bar. “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,” said Gordon. “I used to go back to my room and I’d just cry. There were nights when I would cry myself to sleep. Nobody should ever feel that way.” However, Coach Derek Kellogg and his staff at Umass need to be commended. They decided to have a team meeting in which they put all the cards out on the table, and preached unity and tolerance. He said of Derrick following his announcement, “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.”
To foster a more gay tolerant society will take time. It will have to start in the households and in schools. Teenagers should be made aware that homosexuality does exist, and that it is natural for people to like the same sex, just like it is for people who like the opposite sex. In addition, people should not be chastised if they accept homosexuality but do not like it. Yankee fans don’t like the Red Sox fans but they co-exist, and accept each other. What Jason, Sam, and Derrick have done is huge for the homosexual community. Moreover, it seems like professional athletes are accepting of it. Hopefully that sentiment continues to trickle down to the college, and high school levels, and kids like Derrick Gordon won’t be ridiculed anymore for being gay.