A teenage basketball player has hit back at opposition player calling him a “faggot” – coming out to his team-mates in the process.
Kentucky high school student Dalton Maldonado’s team, the Betsy Layne Bobcats, had just suffered a defeat at the hands of one of the state’s best teams, when an opposing player yelled at him: “Hey No. 3, I hear you’re a faggot”.
Mr Maldonado, who had struggled accepting his sexuality for a long time, responded with: “Yeah, baby, can I have your number?”
Only two of his team-mates knew he was gay, including best friend McKenzie Ackers. He had only told his parents that week. It was an explosive coming out moment for someone who had not wanted to reveal his sexuality while involved in sports.
While his response disarmed the opposition player, when he got back to the changing room, he broke down in tears.
He told Outsports: “I sat back down and realized that I had just came out, and it was definitely not the way I wanted to.
“Reflecting back to this moment I realise that there was nothing I could do about it. My coach came back in and said, ‘one of our players is in pain, you all need to be there for him.
“My team-mates asked what was wrong, and what he had said to me. McKenzie told them to stop questioning me, but they kept asking and asking. It just built up this pressure in me.
“I finally stood up and said, ‘I’m gay, I’m gay, okay?'”
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His coach and friends rallied around to support him – but the opposing team were waiting for him as they left.
Mr Maldonado says they continued to yell slurs at him and tried to stop him from boarding the team’s bus.
Some attempted to follow him onto the bus, but were pushed back by his friends.
The opposition team pounded on the windows, then got into their cars and followed the bus all the way to their hotel. Tournament teams were put into lock down for the night and the police were called.
Teammate McKenzie Ackers said: “They were making gestures like they were trying to shoot at the bus. And they kept yelling bad things at Dalton. It was scary.”
If the opposition team had intended to scare Mr Maldonado into leaving the tournament early, they were unsuccessful.
He said: “If we would’ve went home it would’ve looked like I was ashamed of who I am, and I’m not ashamed of who I am.
“I can stand up for myself, and I had my teammates and coaches by my side. I knew we would be okay. God wouldn’t let anything happen to us.
“We had [travelled] three hours to a tournament and we were finally playing as a team and coming together.”