Brian Sims, the first openly gay college football player in NCAA history, remembers the initial time he told his teammates about his sexual orientation.
It was 2000 and Bloomsburg University, located in northeast Pennsylvania, was experiencing its greatest gridiron season in history. That’s when Sims, senior captain and defensive tackle of the Division II school, decided to share his personal story with his teammates.
“I never planned to come out to my team, but I knew they would find out,” said Sims. “I lived with them. I didn’t date and I was a hardcore feminist.”
Sims’ teammates, however, responded in a way he never expected. “They all thought something was going to happen to me,” he said. “They protected me, and I was honored. I never got that negative backlash.”
Each player found some time to talk individually with Sims. They apologized for jokes they cracked that may have offended him. “They were mortified,” he said. “They were worried I didn’t consider them as good friends as they considered me. And that wasn’t true; they are my best friends.”
Sims comments came during a National Coming Out Day Celebration event, “LGBTQ Athletes and Allies,” sponsored by Suffolk University’s Office of Diversity Services.
During the event, Chris Teague, associate director of Career Development at Suffolk University Law School, received the President’s Award for outstanding contribution to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Teague, who was presented the award from Suffolk Acting President and Provost Barry Brown, was recognized for the inspiration he provides LGBT students, the creation of cutting-edge diversity programming and the education he offers on LGBT issues within Suffolk and beyond.
“I’m proud to be part of a community that values and recognizes LGBT diversity,” said Teague. “All students and staff can learn about the important issues that affect LGBT students in their everyday lives.”
According to Teague, some of those issues include: the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that now allows gays and lesbians to serve in the United States military, same-sex marriage and employee benefits.
“There are a variety of current events and political discussions that directly affect LGBT students and lawyers in their careers,” said Teague. “Part of my role here at Suffolk is to help them successfully navigate the various issues.”
Following Sims’ talk, he opened the floor to questions. Suffolk University sophomore Nick Toscano, 19, who is also openly gay and a former athlete, asked Sims: “Do you feel like because you were a captain it helped you out?”
“It probably did,” responded Sims. “The idea of having a gay teammate is not as unheard of as it was 20 years ago. If I was a freshman it could have been more of a struggle.”