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Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop announced on Monday he's gay, becoming the first player under an NHL contract to publicly come out. Before Prokop's announcement, no NHL player – active or retired – had come out as gay.
In a lengthy Instagram post, the 19-year-old right-handed defenseman wrote: "I am no longer scared to hide who I am. ...From a young age I have dreamed of being an NHL player, and I believe that living my authentic life will allow me to bring my whole self to the rink and improve my chances of fulfilling my dreams."
Prokop was selected in the third round by the Predators in the 2020 NHL draft. He signed a three-year entry-level contract with Nashville in December.
Prokop thanked his family in the Instagram post for meeting him with "love and support every step of the way."
"I hope that in sharing who I am I can help other people see that gay people are welcome in the hockey community," he added.
Prokop told the Predators organization of his sexual orientation in June, and told ESPN that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called him to tell him to reach out anytime.
"The Nashville Predators organization is proud of Luke for the courage he is displaying in coming out today and we will support him unequivocally in the days, weeks, and years to come as he continues to develop as a prospect," team president and CEO Sean Henry said in a statement released by the team. "A long-stated goal in our organization is equality for all, including the LGBTQ community, and it is important that Luke feels comfortable and part of an inclusive environment as he moves forward in his career."
Bettman and NHL Players Association Executive Director Don Fehr also offered public support to Prokop on Monday following his announcement.
Prokop's announcement comes on the heels of Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib coming out as gay and becoming the first active NFL player to be publicly out.
Previous iterations of athletes coming out in men's top-five sports have been short-lived. NBA player Jason Collins came out towards the tail end of his career in 2013, and MLS player Robbie Rogers retired four years after he publicly came out as gay in '13.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Luke Prokop, Predators prospect, becomes NHL's first openly gay player