His tweet on Saturday was simple.
I’m just here to play football.
Yes, you are, My-King Johnson, and here’s to you for being brave and honest and trailblazing.
To be transparent about who you are about to become, the first active openly gay scholarship player in major college football, will have a profound impact on a generation of youth grappling with their sexuality.
It won’t be easy.
The slurs already have surfaced on social media.
“I do feel like when I say that, it can put a target on my back,” the Arizona Wildcats football recruit told the Arizona Daily Star.
And yet you marched on, unwilling to be dishonest about how you choose to live your life.
Gay. African-American. Football player. All descriptions subjected to stereotypes. Most of us could never presume to understand the complexities of your experiences.
The reactions have been complicated: immense support, moderate disgust and significant curiosity about why this is even a story.
Because despite what Kyrie Irving may suggest, the world is not flat; we are not operating on a level playing field.
If we were, the NHL’s Andrew Shaw wouldn’t have been suspended in April for hurling a gay slur at an official.
If we were, the NBA’s Rajon Rondo wouldn’t have been suspended in 2015 for calling a gay referee the same slur.
If we were, the MLS’s Alan Gordon wouldn’t have been suspended in 2013 for directing the same slur toward an opponent.
If we were, MLB’s Noah Syndergaard wouldn’t have used that same word in a tweet to a friend in 2012.
If we were, the NFL’s Tank Carder wouldn’t have directed that same word to a fan on social media in 2012.
Five years. Five athletes. Five sports.
So, yes, it matters, even though many of us want to believe it shouldn’t anymore.
And here’s to Vince Amey, the former ASU lineman and current Arizona assistant, for getting in front of the story.
You told the Arizona Daily Star you said this to King: ‘”Look, you are who you are, I am who I am, and I’m going to coach you the same way. I’m going to treat you the same way. I’m going to get on you the same way as everybody else. There’s no difference. You do what you do. When the players find out, especially my room, I’m going to tell (those) dudes: Look, you gotta have his back.”
If you’re an Arizona resident, you should be proud of how forward-thinking the football programs here have been of late, from the support ASU gave Chip Sarafin – the first Division I openly gay player (he was a walk-on) – to the Cardinals’ willingness to hire the first female coach, Jen Welter, as a training camp intern.
Now it’s Johnson and the support from Arizona.
Bravo, young man. Bravo.
How far-reaching is the impact of Lute Olson?
Consider this: Arizona has 12 players in the NBA. Five of them were products of Olson, who stopped coaching a decade ago.
The five are Channing Frye, Cleveland; Jordan Hill, Minnesota; Andre Iguodala, Golden State; Richard Jefferson, Cleveland; Jason Terry, Milwaukee. A sixth, Jerryd Bayless of Philadelphia, was recruited by Olson and expected to play for him but in Bayless’ one season, 2007-08, the coach took a leave of absence.
The schools with the most players in the NBA? Kentucky with 24 and Duke with 20. Arizona is sixth, just behind UCLA (13).
The news that Ottawa University is developing a 35-acre campus in Surprise is good news for local athletes looking for another post-high school place to land.
Eighteen sports will begin play in August. A 19th, football, will start with a redshirt season. The Christian-based university is working toward NAIA designation.
It will use city facilities as well as those at local high schools until it completes development of its own.
Former West Texas A&M football coach Mike Nesbitt has been hired to coach the football program.
Stat of the day
The speed of Jake Lamb’s first-inning home run Saturday in miles per hour, according to statcast. The distance was 423 feet.
Reach Paola Boivin at email@example.com and on Twitter at Twitter.com/PaolaBoivin. Listen to her streaming live on “The Brad Cesmat Show” on sports360az.com every Monday at 10:30 a.m.