SMITHFIELD, R.I. — Chris Burns stands before his players in Bryant University’s men’s basketball locker room. He is shaking, yet resolute. He’s rehearsed this conversation in his head dozens of times. But that’s just practice. This is game time.Chris Burns is the only openly gay assistant or head coach among the roughly 3,000 coaches in men’s and women’s Division I basketball.“There are parts of this business that lead me to believe what I’m about to tell you is not acceptable here,” the assistant coach says. “This is something I struggle with. It’s made me consider giving up coaching. It’s made me think I’m not supposed to be here.” Players are wide-eyed. Burns takes a deep breath.“I’m a gay man,” he says, at last.He goes on to say he hopes none of this will affect the players negatively, that he wants it to unite them. Bryant’s players surround him with hugs. They tell him they love him. He can exhale. “There was an initial shock factor,” senior forward Curtis Oakley tells USA TODAY Sports. “But everyone was, like, ‘Yo, Burns, we rockin’ with you.’ It was all love.” (USA Today)
In a sports world where far too many athletes feel the need to hide who they are in order to fit in with the team, I cannot give it up enough for Coach Burns and the rest of the Bryant Bulldogs for not letting this hold them back. Coach Burns was ready to give up coaching the sport he loves because he felt that his sexual orientation wouldn’t be accepted in a college basketball environment. When you think about all the athletes and coaches across America dealing with this exact same problem, as well as those who have already given up the game because of their sexual orientation, it’s truly eye opening.
Coach Burns stands for something great. He speaks to not only the people in the same situation as him, but also to the people who feel that homosexuals cant coach a men’s sports team. He proves that being gay or straight has nothing to do with how well someone can coach the game.
I can’t imagine coming out being easy and I can’t imagine doing it in front of the 15 guys you coach being any easier (a lot of respect for the team for showing him love afterward), but I’m glad he did. Being gay should never hold you back from doing anything you love and I hope Coach Burns continues to inspire. Now watch the Bulldogs go 40-0 this year. Just watch.