John M. Becker

College Footballer Comes Out at NOM Chair's Christian School

Filed By John M. Becker | March 31, 2014 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Chapman University, coming out, Conner Mertens, football, John Eastman, Mitch Eby, National Organization for Marriage, NOM, welcome out

mitch-eby-outsports.jpgThis is awesome! Outsports reports that Mitch Eby, a junior defensive end on the football team at Chapman University, came out to his teammates two weeks ago, just before spring break. The other members of the team reportedly burst into applause, with one calling Eby a hero.

According to Outsports's Cyd Zeigler, Eby is first active college football player to publicly come out as gay. He drew inspiration from Conner Mertens, the freshman kicker at Willamette University who came out as bisexual earlier this year:

"As soon as I got an email from him, it was exactly what I wanted, to see athletes like Mitch reaching out to me for help," Mertens said. "The first thing I asked him was, 'Are you ready to start living your life?' He said he was very ready for it. Being out of the closet is so different from living life in it."

For Eby, who had only ever come out to one other person, talking with Mertens was a revelation. The two kibitzed over football, Eby shared his fears about coming out and Mertens talked about his experience with telling his team.

He then told his roommates -- who are also fellow football players -- and his head coaches, before delivering a speech to the entire team. An excerpt from Eby's speech is after the jump.

"...I am ready to share with you all that I am gay.

"It has taken me years to accept myself for who I truly am, so it's irrational to expect everybody to unconditionally accept me right away. However, the one thing that I hope that I can count on from each of you, my teammates, is your respect. Your respect as a friend, your respect as a teammate, and your respect as a man.

"Being gay may be something that defines me, but it does not limit me... I am the same person you all know, no different than before. I'm still the kid that is obsessed with pretty much anything having to do with sports, I'm still the kid that some of you love to call stupid nicknames like 'mom' and 'hot dog,' and I'm still someone who will continue to go out there every day and push myself and push my teammates to be the best football team around.

"I am your teammate, I am your classmate and I am your brother. And I know that my brothers will continue to stand by my side, no matter what."

Eby says he's felt nothing but support ever since.

Over at The New Civil Rights Movement, David Badash uncovered a surprising little factoid: Chapman University, a Christian university in southern California, employs John C. Eastman. Eastman, you may recall, is a law professor who chairs the board of the National Organization for Marriage, an extremely anti-LGBT group.

Go figure. Welcome out, Mitch -- and thank you for opening minds and hearts in a university community that needs to hear your story.

Photo via Outsports.


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