In a strikingly personal statement on outsports.com, Bulldogs' Assistant Men's Basketball Coach Chris Burns describes what it was like to conceal his identity for many years. The former Bryant basketball player writes that he finally decided to come out in June, following the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.
"I thought of the people who never got to see that day, who fought for equal rights but didn't get their time, " Burns said. "That day, when the Supreme Court released its decision, was when I knew beyond anything else: This is all bigger than myself."
Outsports.com describes Burns as the first "publicly gay" men's basketball coach in Division 1 sports. USA Today goes a step further, calling Burns "the only openly gay assistant or head coach among the roughly 3,000 coaches in men's and women's Division I basketball."
According to Burns, the reaction to his announcement has been better than he anticipated.
"I've realized that people, for the most part, are human beings first. For a guy who's relatively cynical and can be negative, the reactions of people in my sport and in my life have shut me right up and reenergized my hope in the human spirit, in empathy," Burns wrote, adding that it has gone "fairly well" for him.
Bryant University put out a written statement from Athletics Director Bill Smith .
"We fully support Chris and what he is doing and are proud that Bryant University is a place where he feels comfortable telling his story," said Smith. "The good that he is doing will echo through generations to come, in athletics and beyond..."
Burns, also in a written statement, says he made the decision to come out after careful consideration and hopes it may help others, adding that he hopes to return his focus to basketball.
"I look forward to a season in which I feel free to be my authentic self both on the court and off it, and I hope this will not serve as a distraction for me professionally, for the game that has meant so much to me, or for the student-athletes and coaches who have supported me throughout this journey," Burns said.