It’s the type of news that was unheard of just two years ago but is becoming at least slightly more common: An athlete in a major American sport has come out as gay.
Chip Sarafin, a fifth-year senior and backup offensive lineman at Arizona State, is the latest player to do so. He joins St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam, NBA forward Jason Collins and UMass basketball player Derick Gordon as those who have come out.
But Sarafin’s announcement marks another first: He’ll be the first openly gay player to play in a Division I college game.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sarafin Talked About His Sexuality in an Interview with Arizona-Based Compete Magazine
The first media reporting of Sarafin’s sexuality came in the most recent issue of Arizona-based Compete magazine, which wrote a glowing feature on Sarafin focused on his work ethic and academic pedigree. You can read the article here.
2. He Came Out to His Teammates Months Ago & Has Made No Secret of His Sexuality on Social Media
Sarafin, a 6-foot-6, 320-pound fifth-year senior from Gilbert, Arizona, told the magazine he began telling his teammates about his sexuality during spring practice, and got a positive reception.
He’s also made no secret of his sexuality on social media, posting photos of himself with his boyfriend and often using the hashtag #instagay on Instagram.
3. He Has a Degree in Biomedical Engineering
Sarafin has never appeared in a game for the Sun Devils, but he’ll be just fine career-wise despite the NFL not being an option.
He has a bachelor’s degree from ASU in biomedical engineering and is working on a master’s in the same subject, and has done research on the impact of concussions on football players.
According to Sarafin’s Arizona State bio, he’s “heavily involved” in community service and works with local groups to end bullying and discrimination.
4. Michael Sam Wished Him Well on Twitter
Congratulations Chip Sarafin for having the courage to be yourself. Wishing you and your teammates much success this season. #courage2014
— Michael Sam (@MichaelSamNFL) August 13, 2014
Sam, who made one tackle in his NFL debut last week for the Rams, was quick to congratulate Sarafin.
Sam, the SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year, was drafted by the Rams in the sixth round and is seeking to become the first openly gay player to make an NFL regular season roster. If he does, he’ll join Collins — who came out in 2013 and made his debut last season with the Brooklyn Nets — as the only openly gay players in major American male professional sports.
5. ASU’s Coach & Athletic Director Heaped Praise on Sarafin
Arizona State coach Todd Graham and athletic director Ray Anderson released statements praising Sarafin’s courage and commitment to the Sun Devils program and to community service.
Here’s the statement from Graham:
We are a brotherhood that is not defined by cultural and personal differences, but rather an individual’s commitment to the Sun Devil Way. Chip is a fifth-year senior and a Scholar Baller, a graduate and a master’s student. His commitment to service is unmatched and it is clear he is on his way to leading a successful life after his playing career, a goal that I have for every student-athlete. Diversity and acceptance are two of the pillars of our program, and he has full support from his teammates and the coaching staff.
And the one from Anderson:
The entire athletics department is extremely proud of Chip and is unequivocally supportive of him. His undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering, his pursuit of a master’s in the same field, his research involving football-related concussions, and his heavy involvement in the community with both youth sports in Arizona and the Tillman Scholars embodies all the characteristics that sets our student-athletes apart and allows our university to maintain an environment of inclusiveness and progression.