Darren Young, one-half of the WWE tag team The Primetime Players, announced that he is gay during an impromptu interview with TMZ Wednesday at Los Angeles International Airport, site of Sunday’s SummerSlam pay-per-view.
TMZ asked Young whether a gay wrestler could be successful in WWE.
Young responded, "Absolutely. Look at me. I'm a WWE Superstar and to be honest with you, I'll tell you right now, I'm gay. And I'm happy. I'm very happy."
Young joins Major League Soccer player Robbie Rogers and the NBA’s Jason Collins as male athletes who have recently come out while still actively competing in a team realm.
"WWE is proud of Darren Young for being open about his sexuality, and we will continue to support him as a WWE Superstar," the WWE said in a statement. "Today, in fact, Darren will be participating in one of our Be A Star anti-bullying rallies in Los Angeles to teach children how to create positive environments for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation."
WWE partnered with The Creative Coalition in 2011 to form Be a STAR (Show Tolerance And Respect). The organization’s mission statement includes working to create “a positive and equitable social environment for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation through grassroots efforts beginning with education and awareness.”
Young's announcement earned praise from WWE Champion John Cena, who told TMZ, "I know Darren personally. Darren's a great guy. That's a very bold move for him. And congratulations for him for actually finally doing it."
Thursday morning WWE Executive Vice President Stephanie McMahon -- daughter of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon -- tweeted, "Congratulations to @DarrenYoungWWE for being the first openly gay WWE Superstar!"
Her husband, 13-time world champion and WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H (real name Paul Levesque) tweeted, "Congratulations, @DarrenYoungWWE for living YOUR life, YOUR way. #proud"
Former WWE Superstar Chris Kanyon announced that he was gay in 2006, two years after being released by WWE. He later said in interviews that he wasn't really gay and that the announcement was just for publicity. But his real-life experiences as a closeted gay wrestler were chronicled in the 2011 autobiography “Wrestling Reality: The Life and Mind of Chris Kanyon, Wrestling's Gay Superstar,” written with Ryan Clark.
The book was released the year after Kanyon was found dead in his New York City apartment, the victim of an apparent suicide at age 40.
In 2002 WWE did a gay storyline with the tag team of Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo, earning support from GLAAD, and later a rebuke when planned nuptials were called off.
Young debuted with WWE in 2010 on the program "NXT," highlighting the company's developmental wrestlers.