Justice

This Gay High School Basketball Player Has a Message For the Bigots Who Snubbed Him

August 12th 2015

By:
Kyle Jaeger

Dalton Maldonado has had a challenging year. The 19-year-old was a star player on the Betsy Layne High School basketball team in Betsy Layne, Kentucky, earning a spot on the small team in the 8th grade and advancing to the role of starting point guard as an upperclassman. In December, however, he became the focus of national attention after coming out as gay at a Christmas tournament match. Though he graduated in spring, Maldonado has again found himself at the center of controversy, having been omitted from a two-page spread in his high school yearbook that featured every other member of the Betsy Layne basketball team.

"That was the first page I flipped to once I got my annual," Maldonado told ATTN:. "I was so excited to see it and that was the only picture that wasn't in there."

Yearbook

The school denies that the omission was intentional, contending that Maldonado appeared in the yearbook 15 separate times. "The Floyd County School System holistically supports Dalton Maldonado just as we do all our students," district superintendent Henry Webb told USA Today.

"After I learned of his omission this morning, I launched a full investigation," Webb continued. "At this point, what I’ve been able to glean is that he was left out by sheer human error."

But Maldonado is not convinced—even after the superintendent personally called him to voice his support for the former basketball player on behalf of the school system.

"[Webb] called and he was like, 'You know we're so proud of you. We would never leave you out of the annual, you were in it 15 times,' and I was like, 'I'm in the annual 15 times, but none of them is my individual picture.' I don’t understand. How are you making the annual and your senior point guard’s picture isn’t in there?"

Dalton Maldonado

The 2014 Christmas tournament was a defining moment for Maldonado. After losing the match by 32 points, he lined up with his teammates to shake the hands of players on the opposing team; the ceremonial show of good sportsmanship took an unexpected turn when Maldonado was confronted by a high-ranked opponent who apparently wasn't satisfied with winning.

"Hey No. 3, I hear you're a faggot," he said.

Maldonado wasn't sure how to respond. He hadn't planned to come out as gay at that time, at that place, but he did—almost spontaneously. "Yeah baby, can I have your number?" he answered.

Despite his outward confidence, however, Maldonado was feeling anything but self-assured as he walked off the court. He went to the locker room and cried, profoundly upset about the exchange and concerned about how people would react. His teammates followed after him, asking what was wrong, and he told them: "I said I'm gay." To his surprise, they rallied around him, expressing their collective support for their star player. But his troubles with the other team didn't end there.

Several players harassed Maldonado and his teammates, yelling and throwing objects at them as they sat waiting in the bus. Then they got in their cars and followed the bus to a nearby hotel where the Betsy Layne basketball team was staying. They were forced to turn the bus around and call the police, who ordered the hotel to go on lockdown.

Maldonado alleges that this incident, as well as the yearbook issue, has been systematically covered up by the school. An administrator reportedly told the former student-athelete that school officials, including the principal, Cassandra Akers, had openly discussed plans to sweep the stories of harassment and discrimination against Maldonado (many of which had been published by Outsports) under the rug. They apparently even asked the student to retract statements that he made during earlier interviews.

"So my school covers this up and pretty much says that none of it ever happened," Maldonado claims. "They covered up that story and now they're trying to cover up not putting me annual. So these are two LGBT issues that they covered up and just brushed it off like it's no big deal."

In a recent Facebook post, Maldonado described his journey and the experience of coming out in a small, Kentucky town. His parents don't approve of his sexual orientation; administrators and teachers made fun of him, he wrote; and the way he sees it, the yearbook omission was a glaring example of the muted discrimination that he faced throughout his high school years. That said, Maldonado hasn't let these negative experiences get to him.

"I started out scared of coming out and scared for anyone to find out," he wrote. "But I am here to tell you, it gets better!"

"To the kid who isn’t out and who is reading this...it’s going to get better! You’ll see that it’s not as scary as you think and the people who truly love you will stick by your side and that’s the people who you truly need in your life. To the parents who have a gay son or daughter, accept them. You don’t know what they might already be facing. I want my message to be that life gets better so be who you are, embrace it! Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean that can stop you from doing anything you set your mind to."

Maldonado will be entering his freshman year of college at the University of Louisville this fall.