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The last few years have certainly been amazing for LGBT athletes and fans. In soccer alone, high-profile players like Megan Rapinoe and Robbie Rogers have come out of the closet and continued their professional careers.
But there are many others who play while keeping their sexual orientation hidden. For some it’s purely a personal choice, and that’s okay. But many others keep their secret for the fear of how their teams, their fans, or their friends and family will react.
The You Can Play Project works tirelessly to break down these walls for athletes. Click here to help us support You Can Play this World Cup season.
The You Can Play Project is best known for their videos — public displays of LGBT support from athletes and fans — but they also work in other significant ways. First, they lead panels across the country, speaking at high schools and universities to out athletes and their stories. They also lead trainings with professional teams to help push the climate in sports in the right direction. Finally, they work with LGBT athletes as they go through the coming out process, whether they are comfortable doing so on SportsCenter or if they want to simply tell those who are closest to them.
You Can Play does great work, and I’m proud to support them. And as a soccer fan, I want to use the upcoming FIFA World Cup to send as much support their way as possible from our soccer fan community. Help us out by making a pledge to donate today — a dollar amount per goal scored by the US Men’s National Team during the series of sendoff games and their time in Brazil.
When University of Missouri (gridiron) football player Michael Sam came out publicly a few months ago, You Can Play executive director Wade Davis was there guiding him through the process using his own personal experiences as a now-out athlete. When the San Jose Earthquakes wanted to have a diversity training after Alan Gordon used a gay slur, You Can Play founder Patrick Burke was there to work with them. But it wasn’t just Burkie there as an ally. Out lacrosse player Andrew Goldstein joined him to tell his personal story. Athletes talking to athletes and out athletes like Davis leading the way are important hallmarks of the work You Can Play does.
Join me today in helping them out. Set an amount you pledge to give per USA goal this May and June. We’ll tally up the number of times Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and the rest of our guys find the back of the net and follow up after the World Cup with how to fulfill your pledge to the You Can Play Project.
This is an amazing opportunity to help the You Can Play Project, but it will only be amazing with everybody pitching in and making a pledge. Help us raise thousands for You Can Play and the great work they do with and for LGBT athletes.
Thank you for your support of Gay4Soccer, and for supporting the You Can Play Project!
Hysén came out exactly three years ago in an interview with Swedish soccer magazine Offside and in this site’s first interview told us that one of his career dreams was to play in the United States.
For the past four seasons he has played for Utsiktens BK in Sweden’s third division. The Mutiny are in the fourth division of the American soccer pyramid, on par with the USL Premier Development League, and eligible for US Open Cup competition.
I’ve had the opportunity to have some conversation with Hysén about this move while it has been in the works and while he knows he’s playing in a lower league in America, he feels that it’s a better opportunity to get exposure and playing time in a country he loves. His move across the Atlantic is expected to happen in April ahead of the new season.
Off the field Anton Hysén is also known as the seventh champion of Sweden’s version of Dancing with the Stars. His father, former Liverpool defender Glenn Hysén, is currently competing on the show.
Abby Wambach and Sarah Huffman got married in a ceremony in Hawaii this past weekend, multiple sources such as TMZ are now reporting.
Ok, for many of this isn’t news. We’ve known this was happening for awhile now. Heck, I did a Google search back in July when Huffman publicly came out while signing on with Athlete Ally that resulted in their online wedding registry.
(My personal favorite item? The bottle opener in the shape of a bulldog’s head.)
We were waiting until one of them said something about the wedding until we did. We wanted to respect what they clearly wanted to be a private affair. But news of the ceremony has been coming out (as it were) for days now, and we can’t help but share in their joy and wish them the best.
Now media outlets across the globe are picking up the story from TMZ and spreading the news of what is likely the soccer wedding of the year (sorry Jay and Ashleigh).
So congratulations to Abby and Sarah. May your married life together be happy and blessed.
Update: On behalf of Sarah and herself, Abby thanked fans Wednesday afternoon:
Sarah and I wanted to thank everyone for all the love and support. We couldn't be happier. What an amazing week it's been. #honeymoon
— Abby Wambach (@AbbyWambach) October 9, 2013
Major League Soccer, along with the MLS Players Union, becomes the second major league to partner with the You Can Play Project.
Today Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union announced a partnership with the You Can Play Project, becoming the second major league to do so.
Via the MLS/YCP release, League Commissioner Don Garber said:
The diversity found in our League has always been a point of pride for us. Our MLS WORKS ‘Don’t Cross the Line’ initiative is a strong statement that we are a league that stands against discrimination. We are proud to partner with You Can Play to ensure that all of our fans and players know that MLS is committed to providing a safe environment where everyone is treated equally, and with dignity and respect.
The You Can Play Project will become a go-to resource for MLS and the Union when it comes to LGBT issues in the league, providing resources directly to athletes. You Can Play will provide training to teams, players, and academies when requested as well as providing hard copies of materials to players through their clubs and Union. Resources will include education on LGBT issues, social media training, and answers to common questions athletes may have.
You Can Play will serve as a confidential and anonymous resource for Major League Soccer players, whether it be a gay player looking for help with issues around his own sexuality, or a straight player who has questions and needs someone open to discussing concerns honestly.
Prior to this official announcement, we’ve seen You Can Play work hand in hand with Major League Soccer and the San Jose Earthquakes as it provided diversity training to not only Alan Gordon after his use of a gay slur on the field, but also to the entire team and academy players. One thing that You Can Play sets as a guiding principle is to always have an out athlete as one of its speakers, and lacrosse player Andrew Goldstein joined YCP co-founder Patrick Burke in speaking to the Quakes. From all accounts it was a great experience for everybody involved.
From fans’ perspectives, look for more MLS teams to make videos for You Can Play, You Can Play Nights to happen in stadiums, and a presence of You Can Play on the league’s website.
Some other quotes from the announcement:
Bob Foose, Executive Director, MLS Players Union: “The MLS Players Union is proud to formalize a partnership with You Can Play. Our players strongly believe that, as the world’s most popular game, soccer should be open to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. We as a Union are committed to expanding our outreach to ensure that all players and fans feel welcome in MLS as we continue to expand our dedicated and diverse fan base.”
Patrick Burke, Co-founder and President, You Can Play: “This partnership with MLS and the MLS Players Union confirms the message that MLS will not tolerate discrimination of any kind inside the locker rooms, on the field or in the stands. We will be able to provide vital resources directly to the players, while also ensuring that every soccer fan feels welcome to attend MLS events.”
Todd Dunivant, LA Galaxy Defender and Union Executive Board member: “As MLS players, we believe that our clubs are strongest when everyone feels safe and included in the locker room. In addition, we love our fans and want all of them to feel safe in our stands. We are excited to work with You Can Play to ensure that both our locker rooms and our stadiums are welcoming to the LGBT community.”
Robbie Rogers is officially a member of the LA Galaxy, a move that makes him the first openly gay man to play for a team in top-tier American professional sports.
The trade between the LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire both allows Rogers to play professionally near his family and hometown, but as players such as Omar Gonzalez told the press, also allows LA’s Mike Magee to return home to his birthplace of Chicago.
Throughout the event, Rogers both acknowledged the historic step he’s taking while also expressing that this is as much about wanting to get back to the sport he loves as being a role model. He told reporters, “My number one goal was to come back and compete and play soccer and I know that by doing that I’m also being that role model you can say or that spokesperson. It makes it easy for me to play a sport I love and to do that.”
He also addressed soccer fans who may not like him for his sexuality by saying he’d like to give such people a hug and that he would welcome a conversation with Sheik Monsour, part owner of the newly announced NYCFC and Deputy Prime Minister of a nation with a terrible track record on human rights.
We’ll continue to have coverage of Robbie Rogers’ return to soccer throughout the weekend, including more quotes from Rogers, Bruce Arena, and his new teammates. We’ll also be live at what will potentially be his first match tomorrow night.
Soccer overwhelmingly becomes the most well-represented sport in the Athlete Ally Ambassador program.
A dozen members of the NASL team Minnesota United FC as well as their head coach and assistant coach have all joined the Athlete Ally Ambassador program.
With the twelve Minnesota players joining Major League Soccer’s Chris Seitz, AJ DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, and Stephen McCarthy, 16 of the 30 athletes in the Ambassador program come from professional soccer, making it by far the number one sport represented.
Minnesota United’s president Nick Rogers (no relation) recently joined the board of Athlete Ally. Founder Hudson Taylor said this of the new additions to the program:
Nick activating 12 of his players in less than a week of joining the advisory board is incredibly impressive. All of these young men have fans of their own, are world-class athletes, and are catalysts for progress among the international soccer community.
Major League Soccer and MLS Works have released the 2013 edition of their “Don’t Cross the Line” PSA campaign with some of the league’s biggest stars participating.
Check it out:
Chris Seitz, A.J. DeLaGarza, and Omar Gonzalez have joined the Athlete Ally program, a nonprofit aimed at encouraging and welcoming LGBT participation in sports. They are the first Major League Soccer players to join.
Seitz, FC Dallas goalkeeper, and DeLaGarza, LA Galaxy defender, were both University of Maryland teammates of Robbie Rogers, the MLS and USMNT alumus who came out last month. Their outstanding freshman class also included Seattle’s Marc Burch and Kansas City’s Graham Zusi. LA defender Gonzalez joined the team a year later, after Rogers left for the Netherlands.
Chris Seitz told AthleteAlly.org:
As an athlete, I’ve learned first hand what leadership means and seen how small actions can make a huge difference. By joining Athlete Ally, I hope my voice will reach gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth and remind them that they are welcomed and respected in sports.
Grant Wahl conducted a preseason survey of MLS players and found that an overwhelming majority said a gay soccer player would be accepted in their locker room.
Wahl, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, spoke with 18 players on the condition of anonymity. He specified on Twitter that while anonymous, these players were veterans and some of the best players in the league, “clubhouse leaders [and] thought influencers.”
The specific question he posed was, “Would a gay player be accepted in your team’s locker room?” 17 players said yes. Only one said no.
I really appreciate the anonymity Wahl allowed the players here. I don’t think we would have gotten the answer of “no” with a fear of wanting to appear politically correct. While Major League Soccer would be a great environment for an out player–and I say the best in the US–it shows we aren’t one hundred percent there yet in all corners of the league and we still have some work to do. That honesty is important to the process and a great reminder of the work ahead.
You can check out all the results of Wahl’s survey at si.com.
It appears that Robbie Rogers, alumnus of Leeds United, the Columbus Crew, and the US Men’s National Team, has come out.
From his website:
The Next Chapter…
Things are never what they seem… My whole life I have felt different, different from my peers, even different from my family. In today’s society being different makes you brave. To overcome your fears you must be strong and have faith in your purpose.
For the past 25 year I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret. Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams.
Dreams of going to a World Cup, dreams of The Olympics, dreams of making my family proud. What would life be without these dreams? Could I live a life without them?
Life is only complete when your loved ones know you. When they know your true feelings, when they know who and how you love. Life is simple when your secret is gone. Gone is the pain that lurks in the stomach at work, the pain from avoiding questions, and at last the pain from hiding such a deep secret.
Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently.
I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined… I will always be thankful for my career. I will remember Beijing, The MLS Cup, and most of all my teammates. I will never forget the friends I have made a long the way and the friends that supported me once they knew my secret.
Now is my time to step away. It’s time to discover myself away from football. It’s 1 A.M. in London as I write this and I could not be happier with my decision. Life is so full of amazing things. I realized I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest. Honesty is a bitch but makes life so simple and clear. My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended.
More as this develops…