“I want to clear up two elephants in the room,” said Wade Davis, former pro-NFL player, and executive director of the You Can Play Foundation. “One, my pants are not pink, they are salmon. And two, yes I did play in the NFL. I know I’m small, but yes I did play.”
Davis, an African American gay man, spoke to K-State community members Thursday night in the Grand Ballroom of the K-State Student Union. He spoke about his background: growing up in Shreveport, La. and moving to Colorado in high school, playing football, his coming out experiences and his first boyfriend, as well as his time in the NFL and his post-NFL career paths.
Davis shared his presentation in chronological order of his life. Raised in a Southern Baptist home, he was taught that being gay was not an option. He stayed closeted about his homosexuality throughout his early life and time in the NFL. It wasn’t until after he ended his professional football career that he came out.
“I paid for [staying in the closet],” Davis said. “I spent my entire life pretending to be straight. It’s hard to imagine living in this state of double consciousness where everything is compartmentalized into these areas that are understandable to those around you.”
It wasn’t until he was 27 years old, working with LGBT youth with his first partner, in New York City that he realized he needed to be his “true, authentic self.” Once he came out to his friends and former teammates, he came out to his family.
His family did not accept his “decision” and wanted him to essentially “pray away the gay.” It did not work. In the years following his coming out, his mother has accepted both Davis and his partner.
“I thought it was really insightful,” Whitney Bolton, senior in biology, said. “You always see things on TV about these situations, but this was someone in real life, with his experiences, sharing his story. He’s not a stereotype.”
Bolton said she will tell people about Davis’s life journey and the situations that made him realize who he was and who he wanted to be.
Brandon Haddock, coordinator for the K-State LGBT Resource Center – one of the sponsoring organizations for the event, said he thought the event went well.
“It was really nice to see so many people so attentive and into what he was saying,” Haddock said. “You could see he was reaching people and affecting their lives.”
Davis ended his presentation with a call to action to those who were in the audience.
“Get involved with young people in these communities,” Davis said. “There are people in these communities who are homeless, who want a big brother or a big sister. There are people who are rejected from their families. There are people who do need others who actually care about them, to actually give a damn. I implore you to get involved.”