Safe to say that major athletes aren’t rushing out in droves to publicly support the LGBTQ community. With homophobia running rampant in locker rooms, some athletes fear being emasculated or even deemed gay by their peers. But after this month’s OUT Magazine cover, featuring A-List athletes Michael Irvin and Ben Cohen, ‘ballers may flip the switch on wanting to become the next gay ally.
Footballer Michael Irvin decided to step out on the cover of August’s OUT magazine not because he’s gay, but he felt it was time to support his gay brother who passed away in 2006. The Hall of Famer told OUT that now was the time to speak up about his gay-ally status because he didn’t want to be known as just a good sportsman, but also as a good man. The ex-Dallas Cowboys star took to the pages of OUT to spread this message–”No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should live the rest of your life with. I don’t want to know [anyone] who will say everybody doesn’t deserve equality.”
And equality is an issue that rugby star Ben Cohen–also featured in OUT’s “Allies” cover–knows a thing or two about. After retiring from rugby, Cohen established the Stand Up Foundation, encouraging young people to steer clear of bullying and respect one another for his or her individuality, gay or straight. Wearing low-hanging pants and no shirt, Cohen tells readers that he hopes to raise his children “to treat people as they would wish to be treated themselves.”
Over the last year, we’ve seen multiple high-profile athletes spit slurs of hate in the direction of the LGBTQ community, both on the court and on Twitter. As more athletes with clout come to the fore and express the need for tolerance, the question becomes: “Will others follow their lead?” Cohen tells OUT that he’s hoping to see more openly gay superstars slamming hoops, throwing Hail Marys and locking in “hat tricks.” It’ll just take a few more high-profile athletes to say gay is OK. Who would you want to see come forth as a gay ally? I’m holding out for Kobe.
Read the OUT Magazine feature with Michael Irvin and Ben Cohen.
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