Guest Post: An Athlete’s Story of Coming Out
March 1, 2011 by Paul Guequierre
The following is from Brian Sims. Sims is the President of Equality Pennsylvania and a former college athelete. He was the first openly gay captain of an NCAA football team. He played at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.
Just over 10 years ago, I had the honor of coming out to my college football teammates, and it was an honor. In just a few short days and weeks, a group of men and athletes that I considered family, reminded me why I became an athlete and ultimately why athletics is about sportsmanship and not always just about winning.
Just as importantly, I learned that a genuine commitment to sportsmanship, above all else, can be one of the most effective paths to winning. In the last few days, Professional English Cricketer, Steven Davies has apparently been going through a similar time in his life. Davies’ decision to come out of the closet, to his teammates and to his fans, is a truly historic and courageous act. By coming out, he joins an incredibly small group of professional athletes that have done so, especially while still playing. To be clear though, just as his family and friends have supported him for year, Davies’ teammates have already given every indication that they’ll also be supporting him this season, and as the rest of his career unfolds. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that! If I’ve learned anything from meeting out athletes at colleges and universities across America, and from the recent discussions about gay athletes from straight pros, it’s that for every courageous, out athlete we see at every level, there are many times more straight teammates standing in solidarity and support of them.
Davies’ is learning a lesson that my teammates taught me - and that I’m trying very hard to share with America’s athletes - that sportsmanship is as much about your actions and behavior on the field, as it is off. He’s learning that his teammates can, and should be, relied on and trusted. He’s learning that attitudes and expectations about gay athletes have changed dramatically in just the few short years that he’s been a professional athlete. He’s learning that young athletes all over the world have grown up with gay people in their lives, on their televisions, in their classrooms, and in their homes. Steven Davies’ career and his life will never be the same. His public announcement that he is both a professional athlete, and an openly gay man reminds me so much of HRC’s mission to ensure our equal rights so that we “can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.”
I’m looking forward to learning more about Davies, and Cricket, this year but even more, I’m looking forward to hearing more about his newfound job as an out athlete and his teammates work as allies of a gay professional athlete. There’s a lot of work left to do but I know that every time Davies and his teammates take the field, they’re telling their friends, the fans and their opponents that they play to win, but they also play with the best players on their team, gay or straight!