Jallen Messersmith, the first openly gay men's college basketball athlete who is actively playing, has reportedly received respect and love from his Kansas-area Catholic university since revealing his sexuality last Fall, and more recently in an interview.
Messersmith, who serves as a guard on the Ravens basketball team for Benedictine College, a small, liberal arts university located in Atchinson, Kansas, originally revealed his sexuality to his fellow teammates and coaches last Fall, and more recently in an interview with OutSports.com, a news outlet for the gay sports community.
Although Messersmith was nervous to tell his teammates about his sexuality, the 20-year-old Missouri native has received respect and kindness since his announcement. Benedictine College's President Steve Minnis told Kansas.com that he and his fellow classmates seek to treat Messersmith with love as one of God's children, regardless of his sexuality.
"I've had conversations with the coaches to make sure he was being treated with respect and sensitivity," Minnis told Kansas.com.
"Our position always has been with Jallen is we love him as one of God's children, and we want to make sure everything is positive for him," Minnis continued.
"We are a Catholic college, and we take our mission and values seriously," Minnis said. "Our duty as Catholics, straight from the church, is to treat everybody with respect and accept them for who they are," Minnis added.
The university also released a statement in which it affirmed that it supports Messersmith as a student and athlete.
''We support Jallen as a Benedictine College student and as a member of the Raven basketball team. Obviously, it would be inappropriate for us to discuss the private lives of students,'' the statement, which was released to Fox Sports, read.
"As an institution we treat all students with respect and sensitivity," the statement added.
Messersmith's interview with OutSports.com was reportedly conducted before Jason Collins, a self-proclaimed Christian NBA player for the Washington Wizards, became the first active male athlete for a professional sports team to come out as homosexual in April.
Messersmith told Fox Sports that the reason he chose to reveal his sexuality was to serve as an example for other gay athletes hoping to come out.
"The big thing for me, why I wanted to do it, before the whole Jason Collins thing, is there weren't a lot of basketball-related stories like this," Messersmith said.
"'When I started coming out, I didn't have anyone to look to for advice or to see how their story went. People can look to see what happened to me – and there are positive things going on," Messersmith added.
Although Collins' sexuality announcement in late April was greeted with support, some asserted that although they respect Collins, they believe homosexuality is a sin. In response to Collins' announcement, ESPN analyst Chris Broussard said that he believes being homosexual is walking in "open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ."
"If you're openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be. I think that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ," Broussard said on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" in late April.
Broussard later released a statement saying he believes "Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement today and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA."
Professional golfer Bubba Watson then said in an interview shortly after that like Broussard, although he has respect for Collins, he too believes homosexuality is a sin due to his Christian faith.
"I've met Jason, said, 'Hey,' to him, because he used to play for the Suns when I had the Suns tickets. I respect anybody that's gay," Watson said in an interview with Golfweek.
Watson then sought to clarify that his opposition to homosexuality does not imply that he feels that he is better than others.
"I'm not saying I'm better than anybody else," Watson said.
"I'm not saying he's wrong, I'm saying I love him. If he called me right now and said, 'Hey,' or any person that was gay called me, I'd go to dinner with them any time. It's just my belief system on the Bible says you can't be gay. That's a sin. So somebody living in sin I believe to be wrong," Watson added.
Another famous athlete to recently announce his homosexuality is Robbie Rogers, a professional soccer player for the Los Angeles Galaxy who became the first professional soccer player to be openly gay in an American league when he announced his sexuality in February 2013.