When the Princeton Tigers' new season kicks off this Saturday, offensive linebacker Mason Darrow will be considered the only openly gay college football player in the country.
According to a report published by Take Part, the junior came out publicly before the start of the season to hopefully focus all reporters’ attention on the game itself and avoid any questions over his sexuality.
"Might as well rip off the Band Aid," Darrow told the website OutSports, "I felt trapped. I wasn't happy. I wanted to tell people, but I thought there would be a lot of animosity," he said.
Darrow’s concerns were valid. A comprehensive 2015 study entitled Out on the Fields revealed that only 1 percent of respondents believed lesbian, gay and bisexual people were accepted in sports, and a majority believed that homophobia was more pervasive in athletics than other segments of society.
"I like football. It just made it harder to figure out because I didn't fit into the stereotype," the 6-foot, 285-pound athlete told OutSports, explaining that his physique does not match society’s preconceived notions of a typical gay man.
Although a persistent myth lingers within the athletic world that a gay player would distract from the sport, several professional athletes have been honest about homosexuality in recent years.
According to a photo report published by CBS News, Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete in any of the four major professional sports when he came out in an April 29, 2013, Sports Illustrated opinion piece. The CBS report went on to list swimmer Greg Louganis, tennis player Billie Jean King and boxer Orlando Cruz as publicly gay professional athletes.
Darrow elaborated about his decision to come out in a New York Times article. “People will surprise you,” he said. “I was definitely concerned that people, teammates, would react poorly. I think in this day and age, people really just don’t care about it.”