Byron Perkins, a defensive back at Hampton University, came out as gay, and he is believed to be the first football player from a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to come out publicly.
“I’ve been self-reflective and trying to prioritize what makes me happy and makes me feel alive,” Perkins said on social media. “I thought it could be just football and school, but there was a component missing. And recently I’ve been able to figure out that I haven’t been fully happy because everyone didn’t know who I was. Authenticity is everything to me.”
Perkins said the decision to come out was about making a change and to “stop running away from myself.”
“I’m gay, let it be known that this is not a ‘decision’ or a ‘choice.’ Yes, this is who I am, this is who I’ve been, and this is who I’m going to be. Simply put, I am who I am,” he said.
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Hampton is located in Virginia and its teams compete in the Colonial Athletic Association. Before playing for Hampton, Perkins, a redshirt junior from Chicago, was on the roster at Purdue. He has 16 tackles and one interception this season for the 4-2 Pirates.
In an interview with Outsports, Perkins says he has received support from his coaches and teammates.
“Especially at an HBCU, young Black gay men need an outlet,” he said. “They need a support system. There hasn’t been an out gay football athlete at an HBCU. I want to end the stigma of what people think. I want people to know they can be themselves.
“It’s about that kid who’s going to see this and think he can be himself too.”