Pistons’ Bullock becomes LGBTQ ally as tribute to late sister
Reggie Bullock is coming off his most impactful season in the NBA.
Now, he’s eager to embrace what he expects to be his most impactful offseason.
The Detroit Pistons’ forward will be in New York on Saturday night to speak at the GLAAD Media Awards dinner. Specifically, Bullock plans to address inclusion and equality for transgender people — which has become a calling of his since the murder of his sister, Mia Henderson, in the summer of 2014 at the age of 26.
“Obviously, this is something close to home with a family member of mine,” Bullock told The News earlier this week. “Something tragic happened to me. I’m trying to bring equality within sports and everyday lives.
“My message will be something that’s pretty much from the heart.
“It means something to me, my life’s journey.”
Bullock first went public in 2016 about the death of his oldest sister, and in the years since, he’s become more interested in becoming a face for the community that, admittedly and understandably, he didn’t understand when he was younger and his sister still was alive.
His efforts have picked up steam in the past several months, as he’s met with gay-rights organizations such as GLAAD and Athlete Ally.
That led to GLAAD invited him to speak at its New York gala, one of the LGBTQ community’s most visible nights of the year.
“It was real. It was close to home. It was the life of a sibling that I didn’t know, pretty much, internally what she was going through,” Bullock said. “A lot of it began with me not knowing, and eager to know more about that community and the life that she lived and what she went through daily.
“Just being a straight person, to be able to bring equality is something I’ve been trying to learn more about, and trying to take a stand for.”
Bullock is an important ally on many fronts. As he pointed out, he’s straight. He’s also black, a highly marginalized population in the LGBTQ community. And he’s bringing more visibility to transgender rights, a little-talked-about segment of the cause.
Bullock — at 27, a year older than his sister was when she was murdered in Baltimore — wears a tattoo on his left leg that reads “LGBTQ” with his sister’s name. He also hosted a Pistons Pride Night at Little Caesars Arena this spring — the Pistons are the only one of the four professional teams in Detroit to officially sponsor a Pride Night; the Red Wings participate in the NHL-wide “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative — and he vows this is just the beginning of his efforts.
“I’m taking it day by day,” Bullock said.
He recently posted on Twitter about a dream he had — that one day, NBA teams will wear rainbow jerseys for one game a year. He said he believes that could happen, or if it’s not rainbow jerseys, maybe rainbow socks, or something of the like.
Bullock said he’s had lots of discussions with teammates and players throughout the league, and said he’s received “nothing but love.”
That includes his coach with the Pistons, Stan Van Gundy, who’s never been shy about sharing his politics, famously blasting North Carolina’s institution of the “bathroom law” in 2016. Van Gundy and Bullock haven’t talked specifically about his efforts, but Van Gundy believes “my family must be proud of me,” Bullock said.
Bullock just completed his fifth season in the NBA, which has taken him from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Phoenix Suns to the Pistons, with whom he’s found a home and a comfort zone, playing the past three seasons (he averaged a career-best 11.3 points in 27.9 minutes this past season).
The professional career came after he played at North Carolina. It was a college career over which he has said he has regrets — not for his play (it led to him being a first-round draft pick), but for the fact his sister never saw him play in college. He has said he didn’t understand what she was going through, and was embarrassed about the idea of having her around and, more specifically, what his teammates would think. He just wasn’t comfortable with it.
Those days are long gone now. Bullock is plenty comfortable speaking out — it’s part tribute to his sister, and part getting to know the community — and becoming a valuable, visible advocate. He has a platform and feels the responsibility to use it, and he wishes more athletes would do the same, no matter the cause. He mentions Colin Kaepernick as an example.
“It’s about anything that any athlete would want to stand up for,” Bullock said. “You don’t see it a ton, because it may be tough at the beginning trying to get people to see your point of view.
“I think it’s slowly growing, but obviously there’s more room to grow.”