Former University of Mississippi guard Marshall Henderson told ESPN on Monday that his anti-Michael Sam tweets were an experiment to gather reaction because he has a friend who is considering coming out to his family.
"My stance on gay athletes is irrelevant," Henderson said. "The whole reason we chose to do this is because my friend is gay. If it was wrong for me to do it, so be it."
Two days after the St. Louis Rams made Sam the first openly gay player ever drafted by the NFL, Henderson tweeted: "Boycotting sportscenter til this michael sam nasty (expletive, expletive) is off .... My brothers are 7 and 11 and saw that!!! #SICKENING"
Henderson later explained his reasoning for the initial comment by tweeting: "The point of his study was to see how people react when others say things or act a certain way against another group of people ..."
Henderson said he plans to meet with his friend Tuesday in the Dallas area, where Henderson lives.
"He's scared," Henderson said. "He hasn't come out of the closet. His family doesn't know."
Henderson added: "The point of this was to see the reaction and if he could feel more comfortable in his coming-out process."
Henderson averaged 19 points per game last season for the Rebels. He was also suspended three games because of a drug-related suspension. In 2013, he was reprimanded by the NCAA after an outburst.
Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork attempted to distance the school from Henderson's comments by tweeting: "I'm extremely disappointed & we do not condone the statements made by our former bball player. We believe in respect & dignity for all. ... We use significant resources to educate our student-athletes about respect & dignity for all people & unfortunately not everyone gets it."
Henderson said he signed with an agent and hopes to play professionally. He is not expected to be selected in the June draft.