As the Princeton football team prepares for its season opener against Lafayette, one of its players is preparing to be the first of a different sort. This week, junior offensive lineman Mason Darrow became the Princeton football program’s first openly gay player, and one of the few in football, NCAA or professional, as a whole. While having come out to his friends and family his freshman fall, Darrow did not intend to make his story public until earlier this summer.The Daily Princetonian spoke with Darrow about the decision to make his story known, and where he plans to go from here.
Daily Princetonian:What about the Princeton football community made you comfortable with coming out to them?
Mason Darrow:I started to form bonds with guys basically right when I got here. It’s a really close-knit team. Those guys are some of my best friends in the world. It was that feeling of friendship that made me think it would be okay to do something like that.
DP:In particular, did you find it was easier coming out to your teammates or harder than coming out to friends and family back home?
MD:I wouldn’t say it was easier or harder. It was about the same. It’s a scary thing to do regardless of whom you’re talking to.
DP:You were coming off an ACL tear [in addition to coming out publicly]. Can you tell me what that process was like?
MD:I wouldn’t say it was anything too difficult. They were two separate processes. I was out here at the time I tore my ACL. I wasn’t simultaneously battling that while rehabbing. I came out to friends and family freshman fall. The decision to come out publicly started over the summer, when I realized I was very comfortable in my current situation, and there was an opportunity to help people by doing it publicly.
DP:Along the same lines, do you see yourself serving as an advocate for LGBT rights in the NCAA community?
MD:I don’t know if advocate is quite the right word, but I want to be an example to show people that it can be done and is being done.
DP:What prompted the decision to come out publicly, beyond friends and family, so close to the first game of the season? Do you think the recent media attention has affected your getting ready for the game?
MD:In terms of doing it when I did, that was how the timing shook out. I first had the idea to do it over the summer, and then between going to talk to Coach [Robert Surace ’90] and doing the whole interview process with Outsports.com, it’s just the time it shook out to that it would be released. And the media attention hasn’t affected our game preparation at all — our sole focus is just beating Lafayette.
DP:How do you think, as a whole, the NCAA and the professional landscape has changed for coming out as an athlete? Do you think you would have been less comfortable a few years ago than you would be now in terms of coming out?
MD:It’s definitely changed a lot, thanks to great examples set by Jason Collins and Michael Sam. I think it’s definitely a lot easier than it would have been even three, four or five years ago.