But it’s promising to see college athletes de-closet themselves, and even more promising when they lead the charge for an entire athletics department to record an “It Gets Better” video and to stand in solidarity against the kind of gay slurs that are all too common in locker rooms and practices.
Jay Hayes, a senior at NYU and captain of the volleyball team, did just that by directing and starring in an “It Gets Better” video sanctioned by the NYU Athletics Department.
Hayes tells NYU Local that the video is part of his journey to come out as a gay athlete:
At the beginning of his sophomore year, he finally told his friends and family back home. Throughout his coming out process, the one group that remained in the dark was his team at NYU.
“For me sports was my way of being straight because it was such a straight environment. It was a nice getaway from the reality of who I was. So that’s why coming out to my teammates was the hardest part of me coming out,” said Hayes.
Hayes’s teammates not only quelled his concerns, they took his announcement surprisingly casually, as if he was talking about the weather. “He just kind of straight up told us and everything was fine. Teammates are supposed to support each other, and it actually brought our team closer,” said teammate and fellow senior Pat Dodd.
Hayes helped NYU continue its tradition of being a volleyball powerhouse in Division III, with the Violets finishing in the top 10 in the nation multiple times in the last four years.
But, when Hayes was elected captain of the volleyball team this year, he wanted to do something for the gay community.
“I contacted Outsports.com, and told them my story, and they asked if I wanted to record an It Gets Better video with just me and my story. But it was awkward for me, and I didn’t feel comfortable,” said Hayes. “One day when I was working out I realized that we have such a good film school here, and we have such a close-knit community among the athletes, why don’t we do a video with all the athletes here at NYU.”
Hayes contacted the NYU athletic department, and with the help of the other sports’ captains and a friend in NYU’s film school, Hayes was able to complete the video over the course of his final semester in college.
His video is now only the second in the It Gets Better campaign done by a major university’s athletic program, the other from Northwestern University.
If other college departments continue to blaze the trail like Hayes and NYU are doing, I think it’s clear we’ll have an openly gay pro athlete in no time.