When pro basketball player Jason Collins announced earlier this year that he was gay, Anthony Nicodemo was listening.
Nicodemo is the head basketball coach at Saunders High School in Yonkers, N.Y. At great risk to his cherished career, he recently decided to come out to his team.
“I said, ‘You know, I always try to preach to you guys about being yourself and really being honest and open,’ ” Nicodemo recounts his story to NPR’s Jacki Lyden.
“‘I haven’t been honest with you guys. I haven’t been honest with a lot of people. I am a gay high school basketball coach.’ “
Nicodemo says that — among the players, parents and school administrators in attendance — the response was almost entirely subdued.
“You could definitely see the facial expressions of shock,” Nicodemo says. “One of the kids got up … and kind of pointed at a couple of the kids and said, ‘Guys, look what he’s done for you. This is nothing.’ And within five minutes, the shock was over and they went back to practicing for the next big game.”
While Nicodemo acknowledges that his players belong to a generation that is more accepting of gay people, he was concerned about the continuing stigma among athletes.
“You know, I think that there’s a lot of stereotypes, and I think I break the stereotypes,” he says. “I think an important part of coaching is trust. And I think right now, my kids trust me more than probably any kids trust their coach in this country right now.”