Derrick Gordon Becomes First Openly Gay Player in NCAA Tournament
Derrick Gordon, 24, made history this weekend when his team, Seton Hall University, beat Villanova University, ensuring he will be the first out player invited to compete in the NCAA tournament this year, USA Today reported.
Playing in the tournament has been a dream for Gordon, a guard who transferred from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to Seton Hall, where he currently plays as a graduate student, according to the paper.
Gordon came out last year at UMass with the support of his coach and fans. He said he was tired of hiding who he was. "I just didn't want to hide anymore, in any way," Gordon told ESPN. "I didn't want to have to lie or sneak. I've been waiting and watching for the last few months, wondering when a Division I player would come out, and finally I just said, 'Why not me?'"
When he came out, his coach, Derek Kellog, was proud of the step Gordon took to become the first out player in the division. "What he did, coming out to the world, took tremendous courage," Kellog said in 2014. "He's saved lives."
Spectators believed that after Gordon came out, other players would follow, but that hasn't been the case thus far. Gordon did face some backlash when he came out. One of his games at UMass was protested by five members of the Westboro Baptist Church, but 1,500 counter protestors showed up in support of Gordon, dwarfing the church's attempt.
After Gordon came out, assistant coach Chris Burns of the Bryant University Bulldogs told the world he is a gay man, but Gordon remains the only out player, a fact that his current coach Kevin Willard finds incidental:
"For us, the fact that he’s gay is an old story. These kids know about Derrick, they’re on social media and are very informed. This generation of athletes are much more educated on the gay athlete. I think the attention is brought on by adults. We make it a bigger deal. Some of these kids can teach us a lesson on how to handle this type of stuff.”