Israel Gutierrez, an NBA columnist for ESPN and a regular panelist on Around the Horn and The Sports Reporters, came out in an emotional blog post this week.
"I've been agonizing for months trying to figure out how to do this," he wrote. "It's been incredibly difficult, to the point where I usually talk myself in circles and end up making very little sense. So I decided on this simple blog entry. No formalities, no restrictions, just me letting you into a portion of my life I've kept largely separate from my professional career. I'm gay, which plenty of people, I'm sure, have either deduced or just guessed as much over the years."
Gutierrez, 38, says he's been out to friends and family for more than six years, so this isn't his big "coming out," but since he's getting married September 12, he didn't want to have to tell his story over and over when people noticed his wedding ring.
"As far back as I can remember, I've always enjoyed sports, enjoyed competition," he wrote. "But there was always, especially in my teenage years, a confidence barrier I could never break through. I couldn't really explain it then. I mean, I probably knew deep down that it was because I was gay, and for some reason that made me feel I wasn't on the same playing field, almost literally, as straight men. But I was already in deep denial about my sexuality, so acknowledging that would've probably broken me back then."
Gutierrez wrote that he had long felt extreme shame, and from his early teens until his late 20s, he'd blow out his birthday candles with the same wish: "Please don't let me be gay."
"Every time I prayed, I made sure to ask God to help me through this," he wrote. "To help reveal my true self." Then, in 2010, he read the coming out story of Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas and was moved.
Gutierrez, who lives in South Florida where he was born, says he met David Kitchen in 2009 while on a trip to Phoenix, which was when his life began to change. The two were engaged in February 2014 and Gutierrez says they will have a very traditional ceremony next week.
"Not only was there, possibly, someone out there for me, but I had been making life so unnecessarily difficult on myself," he wrote. "I was so concerned about fitting what other people thought I should be, I was literally wasting an entire segment of my life. In a sense, all the prayer worked because I eventually saw my true self, and I've never been happier."
"I'm confident that now that this is out in the open, I can deliver an even better version of my professional self," he concluded. "Happiness tends to bring out the best in a person. And I'm so happy right now."