Former College Football Team Captain was Openly Gay

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By Paul M. Banks

Yesterday, the California supreme court voted 6-1 to uphold the ban on gay marriage voted in by Proposition 8 last November. The decision sparked massive protest demonstration all across the country. Within this political atmosphere I learned the story of Brian Sims, a former Defensive tackle and captain of the Bloomsburg University football team who came out to his team during his senior season. Sims’ story of his team succeeding both on the field and with the concept of tolerance is profiled on the website OutSports.com


“they never heard a single negative comment about Sims’ sexuality the rest of the year. Part of that was the timing. They were in the middle of a season for which they all had high hopes, and by the time most of the team found out about Sims, they had started talking about the playoffs. After starting the season 1-2, they ran off 11 straight wins and reached the 2000 Division II National Championship game. With the preparation and frenzy surrounding the team as they inched closer to the playoffs and then started winning playoff games, the sexuality of one of the team’s most respected players was the furthest from players’ concerns.”

As teammates found out, in the locker room no one moved away from Sims. No one shied away from him. His being gay became just more fodder for locker room teasing, like someone’s fat mom. Sims said he also became the dumping ground for every question his teammates had about gay people. “Straight guys tend to be the most curious about sex, in general,” Sims said. “My team asked me everything you can possibly ask a gay guy about sex, and in the crudest terms possible.”

I wasn’t even aware of Sims’ story or even that an alternative lifestyle oriented sports site existed until I received this email, perhaps the most enlightening electronic message I’ve received all month.

“Anyway, the story reminded me of your story from the Washington Post earlier this month about openly gay athletes in sports and Sims’ story seemed right on the mark.

Given what’s going on with gay marriage, school-yard bullying, and the lack of any good sporting news these days – this should be exactly the type of story you should follow up with: Good looking, all-American college jock comes out as America is increasingly becoming more tolerant!

All I know is that this guy is the only gay football captain to EVER come out of the closet and that is absolutely the kind of sports story that the Washington Post should be all over…plus he’s heard from athletes in like 30 states and over a dozen countries!

Dave Panchetti
Chicago, Ill.

Yes, I know Dave referred to the Washington Times as the Washington Post. I get that all the time, and get a kick out of it, and also correcting people can become tiresome. Getting back to Sims, his story is phenomenal and I plan to try and get him on for an interview soon, here’s another excerpt from the Out Sports feature:

“It also helped that Sims was good. Very good. He was the captain of the team and he was a first-team all-conference player that year. While his team got beaten badly by Delta State in the national championship game, 63-34, Sims said he recorded three sacks in the game.

“By the time it happened, I was the longest-running starter on the team,” Sims said. “I had a lot of success on the football field. And I think that bought me a certain amount of leeway with this group.”

Perhaps 30 years from now they’ll make sports movies about the struggle for Gay Rights in the vein of films made today like “The Express,” “Glory Road,” and “Remember the Titans.” These depict the intersection of sports and the civil rights movement. Sims would make a great subject for a biopic. As riveting a film as “Milk” (the recent Sean Penn movie about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected public official in America, who was assassinated along with San Francisco mayor George Moscone) was, the Sims’ movie would actually have a happy ending.

I hope the story of Brian Sims, and his teammates who openly accepted him, will inspire more athletes to come out. Beyond that, this example of Sims and the Bloomsburg University football team should send a message about the Gay rights movement to society at large in the same manner that Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers made an impact on the Civil Rights movement over 60 years ago.

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Comments

  1. Jake Fowler says

    I think we will definitely see an openly gay athlete in our lifetime in one of the four major sports. It will obviously take a brave person to do it but the societal gains from this could be tremendous. I don’t think we will see anyone come out until they have established a solid career for themselves and a think a likable, outgoing personality would help the player coming out. But can you imagine if Shaq came out? Would people still not love him? And think of how a person like Shaq could advance the cause of gay rights in society at large.

  2. Jake Fowler says

    The locker room is often discussed as being potentially the hardest place for an openly gay athlete. This is why i think the first player to come out in one of the four major sports could be baseball. Baseball is much more of an individual sport where teamwork doesn’t factor into the outcome as much. With some of the other sports the gay athlete might be more afraid he would disrupt team chemistry which could lead to negative consequences on the field/court.

  3. paulmbanks says

    I would definitely agree that it’s going to take somebody who’s really established themsleves both on the field/court as a performer and away from the game as a marketable personality to come out of the closet. Shaq is a good example, I don’t think he would lose many fans if that happened. Mark Cuban has been very outspoken about saying he wants the first openly gay player on his team

  4. paulmbanks says

    Jake, that’s a solid theory about baseball possibly being the first sport…I guess football would probably be the final one because of the high level of interdepdence. I still say it will be basketball, because John Amaeachi has been sort of a bridge, and the main target demographics that consume the NBA would be more sympathetic to player from a group struggling to acquire equal rights, being simply that much of the NBA’s audience unfortunately has experience being discriminated against and encountering bigotry

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  6. He or she still looks like he’s 25. Amazing.

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