• Sumo

By Ken Reed

“Best Decision I Have Ever Made”

Mason Darrow was terrified. He wasn’t afraid of failing a class, losing a parent, or what a doctor’s diagnosis might be. He was afraid to be himself.

Darrow is a 6’5″, 285 lb. offensive lineman for NCAA Division I member Princeton University. He’s also gay. But he didn’t want to tell anyone about it, let alone his teammates.

“I felt like I had to keep appearances up,” says Darrow in an excellent piece by Cyd Zeigler. “I didn’t want to arouse suspicion that I might be gay, so I went along with the flow and did what I thought was expected of me.”

Thanks to a fellow Princeton offensive lineman named Caleb Slate, Darrow found the courage to begin living an authentic life. Slate noticed that Darrow was in a somber mood one day at practice and kept asking Darrow what was wrong. Darrow wasn’t ready to talk.

“I felt trapped,” says Darrow. “I wasn’t happy. I wanted to tell people, but I thought there would be a lot of animosity.”

But Slate kept digging. He wanted to know what was eating at his teammate and friend. Finally, Darrow felt comfortable enough to tell Slate the truth.

“I knew at that point I didn’t want to be closeted my entire time here,” says Darrow. “I knew this had to happen eventually, so it might as well happen now. Might as well rip off the Band-Aid.”

Slate was cool with the news and told Darrow his other teammates would be too.

“The only prerequisite to being on a football team is that you work hard,” Slate assured his teammate. “This isn’t going to bother people if you tell them.”

Darrow felt a surge of relief and freedom that continued to grow as he told more people.

He’s now decided to go public with his story because he thinks it might help other gay athletes come out and be true to themselves.

His message to closeted gay athletes who are as terrified as he once was:

“It’s not as scary as it seems … Telling my teammates was the best decision I have ever made.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans

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