Abrahm DeVine Admits to Drinking on USA Team Trip But Stands By Homophobic Team Culture at Stanford

abrahm-devine
Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Former Stanford swimmer Abrahm DeVine insists homophobia was the reason why Stanford didn’t invite him back to train this fall as a postgrad, but has since admitted to breaking a USA Swimming rule where he went out drinking at a Team USA swim meet instead of showing up to support the team.

DeVine stands by his comments made last week where he said there was a homophobic culture at Stanford.

An excerpt from his post:

“Everyone says they support me, and yet, for the millionth time, I am the only one speaking up. To my coaches who sport the pride flag on their desk, to the athletes who liked my pride photo on Instagram, I need you to wake up to what’s happening around you. How can you say you support me and my equality? How can you not see how Stanford Swim has treated me and used me over the last 4 years?

“Am I invisible? Plain and simple: there are surface level reasons I was kicked off the Stanford swim team, but I can tell you with certainty it comes down to the fact that I’m gay. This is a pattern. Homophobia is systematic: intelligently and masterfully designed to keep me silent and to push me out.”

Abrahm DeVine admitted to a local Stanford paper that his expulsion from the program “came after he drank at a Team USA swim meet instead of showing up to support his teammates who were competing, a violation of the National Team’s Honor Code.”

“I think that I wrote this entire Instagram post where every sentence is very important, but the only one that people are really focusing on is me calling out Stanford, and that makes my message sound very aggressive and that I’m out for blood, when in reality that is not what I wanted at all,” DeVine told the paper. “I’m here to just say this is a systemic issue.”

DeVine said he wanted to bring to light how a homophobic culture within Stanford’s team was already alienating him from the swimming community. He also said an important reason why he did not support Team USA at the meet was “because he felt that neither coaches nor athletes on the team respected him and his experiences as a gay swimmer.”

“Between coaches and other athletes, I feel there is so much ignorance to what it means to be gay in a sports world that my character is not recognized,” he wrote in a statement to the Stanford Daily. “Although I feel I can participate by being silent and non-disruptive, I feel that my identity as a gay man is incompatible with the swimming world.”

Abrahm DeVine also said that homophobic slurs were commonplace on the Stanford team before he came out while he was in school.

“What I really wanted was some thought and reflection on where [the homophobia] was coming from, on why you think gay equals bad. And I think what actually happened was like, ‘Oh shoot. We can’t really say these [slurs] anymore. We might still think it’s kind of funny, but we’re going to censor ourselves.’”

DeVine recalled the Stanford coaching staff “appealing to masculine stereotypes to motivate swimmers on the team” and being “unwilling to listen to him when he sought to explain why he felt excluded from the team as a gay man.”

“If you ask any of these coaches, ‘What do you think about gay swimmers?’ they would say, ‘That’s great. I support equality, I support gay swimmers, sexuality doesn’t matter to me at all,’” he said. “And then you can ask, well, ‘Why have you never coached a successful gay athlete and what do you think are the obstacles facing them?’ They will have no response.”

Swimming World reached out to the Stanford coaches for comment on the situation last week which reads:

“It is truly unfortunate Abe feels this way. That said, Abe wasn’t invited back to train with us this fall, as a postgraduate, for reasons entirely unrelated to his sexuality. We take pride in the inclusivity and supportiveness that exists on both our men’s and women’s teams, but we will continue to strive, as always, to improve those aspects of our culture.”

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As many of you know, I’m an openly gay swimmer and I am the only one at my level. I want to use this post to call out some of the homophobia that I’ve experienced being an athlete, and encourage everyone to be thoughtful and intentional about changing some of the homophobic aspects of the athletic culture that exists today. While I have many specific examples of micro aggressions and outright aggressions that I’ve experienced, homophobia is ultimately much more than an accumulation of experiences. In fact, it is a denial of experience. While I feel like I’ve tried to convey this to many people, many of whom deny any possibility that they contribute it, I’ve started to ask myself: Why is it my job to educate coaches and athletes at the most resourceful university in the world? I cannot continue to try to engage people in this conversation when there is so much fragility to obscure my humanity and character, so much rhetoric to keep me silent. Everyone says they support me, and yet, for the millionth time, I am the only one speaking up. To my coaches who sport the pride flag on their desk, to the athletes who liked my pride photo on Instagram, I need you to wake up to what’s happening around you. How can you say you support me and my equality? How can you not see how Stanford Swim has treated me and used me over the last 4 years? Am I invisible? Plain and simple: there are surface level reasons I was kicked off the Stanford swim team, but I can tell you with certainty that it comes down to the fact that I am gay. This is a pattern. Homophobia is systematic, intelligently and masterfully designed to keep me silent and to push me out. I am a talented, successful, educated, proud, gay man: I am a threat to the culture that holds sports teams together. I want something to change, because I can’t take it anymore. My story is not unique. There are queer voices everywhere and all you have to do is listen. I am asking, begging for some sort of action. If you are reading this, this post is for you! Gay or straight, swimmer or not. None of us are exempt from homophobia. It is your civil duty to educate yourself. If you choose not to, it is at my expense.

A post shared by Abrahm DeVine (@abrahmdevine) on

Abrahm DeVine is currently training with Team Elite in San Diego.

DeVine won two NCAA titles in the 400 IM in 2018 and 2019 and also represented the United States at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships, as well as the 2018 Pan Pacs. He was tenth in the 200 IM at the 2017 Worlds and was eighth this past summer in 2019 in the same event.

You can read the full report from the Stanford Daily here.