Before playing a down for Arizona State University’s Sun Devils this season, outside linebacker Chip Sarafin decided to come out to his teammates and coaches. Then, the fifth-year student working on his master’s in biomedical engineering went public on Wednesday in an article in Compete. Sarafin told the Arizona-based gay sports magazine that he spoke to his fellow Sun Devils last spring before rumors could start.
“It was really personal to me, and it benefited my peace of mind greatly,” said Sarafin, who is thought to be the first openly gay player in Division 1 football.
Sarafin’s coming out follows similar firsts in the NBA and NFL, where barriers came down over the past year thanks to, respectively, NBA player Jason Collins and NFL hopeful Michael Sam, who came out after his college football career ended and is currently fighting for a roster spot with the St. Louis Rams.
Sam offered his support to Sarafin on Wednesday in a tweet praising Chip’s courage.
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
The Compete interview was conducted by a recent ASU graduate, Joshua Wyrick, who said the university came to him with the story.
“He [Sarafin] was really interesting. He likes to talk a lot more about his profession than his sexuality, of course,” Wyrick said. “He really wants to make sports better from a safety standpoint and from an acceptance one too. He didn’t seem like he could be more comfortable about it, and said he didn’t get a second look (when he came out) from anyone on the team. The more athletes these kids can see in college (as out), the more comfortable they’ll feel. Maybe they won’t come out to their friends, but they’ll know there are lots of people like them.”
After ASU’s practice on Wednesday, the athletic department released a statement in support of Sarafin, emphasizing the bond among the team’s players.
“We are a brotherhood that is not defined by cultural and personal differences, but rather an individual’s commitment to the Sun Devil Way,” coach Todd Graham said. “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.”