While most major American sports leagues are waiting to see their first openly gay active player, the world of professional wrestling made history on Thursday when WWE superstar Darren Young unexpectedly came out of the closet. His revelation quickly earned the support of some of the sport's other biggest stars.
The surprise reveal happened casually as Young was walking through Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday and was asked by TMZ if he thought a gay wrestler could ever make it in the WWE.
"Absolutely," he said. "Look at me. I'm a WWE superstar and to be honest with you, I'll tell you right now, I'm gay. And I'm happy. I'm very happy." The disclosure makes Young the first major wrestler to come out while still actively signed to a major league.
One of Young's fellow star colleagues, John Cena, said he fully supported the grappler, telling TMZ, "Oh wonderful ... I know Darren personally. Darren's a great guy. That's a very bold move for him. And congratulations for him for finally doing it." Cena added that the news hit close to home for him, because he has a gay brother and he knows the difficulty of coming out.
"For us, it's entertainment," Cena said. "And if you're entertaining you shouldn't be judged by race, creed, color or sexuality ... as long as you're entertaining."
Another wrestling star, Triple H, tweeted about the news, writing, "Congratulations, @DarrenYoungWWE for living YOUR life, YOUR way. #proud." As did Titus O'Neil, who said, "I'm VERY PROUD OF @DarrenYoungWWE. He's been like family 2 me & my kids and that won't change!"
The WWE also expressed support, with a rep saying, "WWE is proud of Darren Young for being open about his sexuality, and we will continue to support him as a WWE Superstar. Today, in fact, Darren will be participating in one of our Be A Star anti-bullying rallies in Los Angeles to teach children how to create positive environments for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation."
The league's audience is 61 percent male with the majority ages 18-49, a group whose support for gay marriage has been polled at between 54-65 percent.
One of Young's bosses, WWE executive vice president Stephanie McMahon also weighed in, writing, "Congratulations to @DarrenYoungWWE for being the first openly gay WWE Superstar!"
Congratulations to @DarrenYoungWWE for being the first openly gay WWE Superstar!— Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) August 15, 2013
The news comes less than five months after NBA center Jason Collins became the first active major league player to come out in a touching essay in Sports Illustrated that drew support from Lil Wayne, among others.