In 1997, Brian Sims helped lead his high school (and, in the interest of full disclosure, mine) to the Pennsylvania State AAAA football Championship. In 2000, he was named an All-American defensive lineman and helped lead Bloomsburg University to its first ever national championship game.
Brian’s since graduated from law school and has become a practicing lawyer in Philadelphia who serves on the Board of Directors for Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia. Since first telling the story of playing football as an openly gay man to OutSports.com, Brian’s received thousands of emails from both out and closeted athletes, all wanting to talk about the terrifying concept of not only coming out, but doing so in arguably the most macho setting possible.
And really, it’s hard to downplay how intimidating and downright discouraging it must be for a gay athlete to even contemplate coming out to their teammates. For every Brendan Ayanbadejo (a vocal supporter of gay marriage equality) there’s Larry Johnson. For every survey that finds that nearly 3/4 of professional baseball players would have no problem with a gay teammate, there’s bigoted assclowns like Todd Jones. (Seriously. Ugh.)
So how did Brian Sims’ teammates handle it? By not giving a damn.
“I knew it was going to happen, I just didn’t know how or when,” Sims said. “I feared it would change the dynamic in the locker room. You’re spending four or five hours a day with your friends, and that’s what I played for. I cared that my team would still be comfortable around me. I was concerned that in the locker room guys would be uncomfortable around me.”
Despite the fear, Sims told them he was gay. They spent much of the rest of the night talking about the revelation, mostly making sure that Sims was in good shape emotionally.
Not only did his teammates not denigrate him for his sexuality, they actively supported him. From the OutSports.com article:
Sims remembered one night when he was on a date. They were sitting in the back of the room at a candlelit table enjoying a quiet evening. Several of his teammates came in and were sharing some drinks at the bar. Out of Sims’ earshot, one of the other patrons apparently made a comment about the two fags on a date.
“Three or four guys on my team literally picked him up and threw him out the door,” Sims said.
Many of his teammates came to him over the coming months, pulling him aside to privately apologize for anything they may have said over the years that offended him. He specifically remembered a 6-foot-3, 350-pound teammate “crying his eyes out” thinking he may have offended Brian in the past. “It was very affirming for me,” Brian said.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty damn awesome. What’s even more awesome is that those teammates who didn’t care back in 2000 are now adults helping to raise a new generation of kids to not give a damn whether their teammate is gay or straight, so long as they’re a solid teammate.
Until the day that next generation of kids grows up, though, Brian Sims is there. He’s there, speaking at colleges and high schools, talking to large assemblies and small team gatherings about tolerance, and honesty, and acceptance. He’s emailing faceless strangers from around the world who are using his courage and honesty as an inspiration. (One 15 year old wrestler recently sent Brian’s story to his teammates as a vehicle for his own coming out to his teammates.) He’s working day in and day out to help people recognize what a gay athlete looks like and why that’s really no big deal at all.
We apologize for this step away from our usual Ladies…frivolity, but we wanted to bring Brian Sims, his efforts, and his pretty damn awesome teammates to your attention. Please take the time to read the profiles of Sims. We think it’s worth it.
“Luckily, I have a very good message,” he says. “And the message is: It’s not wrong to be a gay athlete, and here’s why.”
There are so many reasons he can’t even count them all. For one, he maintains most college students, even conservative ones, don’t consider a person’s sexuality to be an issue.
“Ten years from now,” he says, “this conversation will be pointless.”
It’ll be pointless because of the efforts of people like Brian Sims and his teammates, and we salute them for it.
(Plus, let’s be honest. He’s quite the cutie.)