Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Conner Mertens becomes the first active college football player to come out

Conner Mertens
College football player Conner Mertens, of the Willamette University football team, last night came out to the world in a letter he posted to his Twitter account.

The letter was directed to his small hometown of Kennewick, Washington.

"You are not alone. You do not need to come out but you do need to know that you do not have to go at this by yourself. The aloneness you're feeling is temporary and it will get better. This place is changing...changing for the better. I made the decision that if I could prevent one person from feeling that self-hatred, loneliness, desperation and a thousand other emotions that I felt, I would. I will be damned if I let anyone tell you that you are wrong or weird or not normal.

"Love yourself and allow others to love you. Be who you are and know you're not alone."

Before the tweet, Conner shared the letter with his team in a meeting last night.

The letter was printed and placed on desks facing down.  At the same time, the players all turned the page and read in silence.

The response?  From OutSports:

One by one the players shared what was on their minds. At one point, one of the bigger guys on the team had something to say. This was one of the players of whose reaction Mertens was most afraid. He has a reputation of seeking out fights, eager for fisticuffs, Mertens said. He laid it all on the line in front of the team.

"If anyone has a problem with Conner," he said, "I'll kick your ass."

Every one of the team members who spoke shared the same sentiment. Mertens is a member of the team, he has a bright future on the gridiron, and it just doesn't matter if he has a boyfriend or a girlfriend.

"It's been insanely incredible," Mertens said a couple hours after the meeting last night. Text messages and phone calls poured in from the team, all offering their love and support. "I'm speechless. That is the only word I can use to describe this. Even a lot of the guys on the football team I was most scared of are the ones who have been the most amazing."

One team mate asked Mertens to meet him on campus. When he arrived, the player gave Mertens a big hug.

You can see Conner's tweet, letter and the responses below.

And you can read Cyd Zeigler's excellent article chronicling Conner's journey to today at OutSports. I really urge you to head over and read the entire piece. It will give you a lift in terms of how great the next generation will be.

Congratulations Conner on a heartfelt and honest coming out, and for having great taste in friends and team mates.


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