My King Johnson
A Modern Day College Athlete
By Akil Patterson
Never did I think that one day playing football and being gay would be a reality, but today it is. My-King Johnson is one example of what being a gay athlete in America looks like today.
Earlier this year, Mr. Johnson’s story was heavily publicized in sports circles as he is set to become the first openly gay scholarship player in the history of college football. The heavily recruited Johnson initially committed verbally to UCLA before settling on Arizona. According to The Daily Star, Johnson informed Arizona defensive line coach Vincent Amey of his sexual orientation during the recruiting process. Johnson said Amey replied that “we want you to be a Wildcat.”
A healthy, well adjusted, young man who came out to friends and family when he was 12 years old, My-King told The Daily Star why he was so open. “I’m a very honest person, I just don’t see how I could be living an honest, truthful life and have that in the background.”
Mentally, the young Mr. Johnson appears ready to attend the University of Arizona where he will play for an established Division 1 FBS program. Not to mention being coached by Rich Rodriguez, who himself as a Latino American is a pioneer among college coaches. The 6-foot – 4-inch, 225-pound defensive end will have his college days to focus on playing football and growing as a person. While we should celebrate My-King for his courage, we must remember that this did not happen overnight. For years Black faces have been at the forefront of the LGBT sports movement.
Emile Grifth was a world champion boxer who famously killed a man in the ring after his opponent taunted him with gay slurs. Emile never really wanted to box. Instead he wanted to be a hat maker, but society saw a strong man who was raised by a single-mother who tried to beat the gay away. So, he learned a fast lesson in survival, and that was to use his fists to get the respect he deserved. While Emile was boxing another gay athlete was in the process of making a mark on the baseball diamond.
Glenn Burke was a starter for the L.A. Dodgers, and the first openly gay athlete in major professional sports. Let me state that again, he was openly gay and everyone who played with him will tell you that it was no secret. But what many will not tell you is that for his public love of another man he was black balled from baseball. Some teams refused to play him or even give him a try out. Some say it was due to a personal relationship with the son of the Dodgers General Manager, who later died of AIDS. Glenn Burke was never the same after that relationship, going from baseball to turning tricks with men for dollars to keep up a drug habit. Sadly, Glenn died of HIV-related causes when he was just 34 years old.
My-King has the chance to be the first in a generation not to have to worry about his ability to play. He does not have to fear rejection from the institutions or programs that are supposed to protect him, unlike many in the past. My-King gets to start life as a college athlete the way all college athletes should, with his eyes wide open to the possibility of a bright future.
Hats off to you, My-King Johnson! And Go Wildcats!