For the first time in its 77 years, an openly gay athlete will compete in the NCAA college basketball tournament beginning this week.
Seton Hall senior guard Derrick Gordon came out in April 2014 while attending and playing for UMass, and his performance against No. 2-ranked Villanova in the Big East tournament championship on Saturday cliched the Seton Hall Pirates’ qualification in March Madness.
And while we’re calling out this historic first as another broken barrier to put in the rearview mirror of progress, don’t expect to hear much from Gordon on the subject.
He’s understandably focused on the game and showcasing his talents for the NBA.
“For us, the fact that he’s gay is an old story,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said last summer, via USA Today . “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.”
While we agree with most of Hall’s take, the only way the story changes is by talking about it. Because while “some of these kids” may be more evolved on the matter, others are miles from the goal — or whatever sports metaphor you want to substitute in.
Just recently we’ve heard disturbing accounts of violent antigay hazing at a high school and homophobia at the NFL combine that pushed a professional sports writer to come out and blast the lingering antigay culture in football.
This is the second NCAA tournament Derrick has played in — he just wasn’t out the first time.
To gay and straight youth alike who have a passion for sports, that’s still a big deal.