Former Maryland football player Akil Patterson comes out publicly
In October 2010, Outsports posted a story about a closeted athlete – a former collegiate football player turned U.S. Greco Roman wrestler. While the story was fairly descriptive including details of trying to fit in by being a womanizer, being asked and confronted about his sexuality by his team, a coach, and an NFL scout, transferring to a new school and to a new sport, it lacked that extra detail to really give the story some punch: a name.
Just the past week, the story got its name. The athlete is former Maryland football player Akil Patterson.
The entire piece by Jim Buzinski is a great read, and I especially like how it answers a few questions about the culture of sport:
Question: Do NFL scouts ask about the sexuality of players?
Answer: They sure do.
While Patterson didn’t make it onto an NFL roster, in the pre-draft process he was asked by a scout. He answered “yes,” and the scout responded, “We’ve got a lot of guys in the league who are.”
I find that exchange fascinating on so many levels. First, the courage it took for him to answer affirmatively is commendable. He doesn’t blame that answer for keeping him on an NFL roster either. Second, the fact that the scout is aware of “a lot of guys” that are gay reiterates that the culture in sport needs to change.
Question: How bad is the culture of sport for a closeted athlete?
Answer: It’s bad.
Patterson admitted to hooking up with a lot of girls in order to present that macho straight male image to his teammates. Ignoring how unfair this is to the females in those situations, the stress this puts on one’s sexuality is tremendous. And once Patterson risked exploring the gay life, the consequences with his team were significant:
A group of his teammates demanded to know if he was gay. He even had a coach ask, and Patterson calls this the low-point of the whole experience, “What are you? Some fag?”
From these experiences, and who can blame him, Patterson left Maryland.
Patterson eventually played some semi-pro football in Montana and now is training with hopes to be an Olympia Greco Roman wrestler.
Patterson was also kind enough to include his email if you wish to contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org.