Sports is known to bring people together, Nelson Mandela proved it too! He used sports to bring together the deeply divided country and it did work out. And so, it is only right for sportspeople to use their voice and address issues that need attention. The LGBTQIA+ community faces a lot of struggles in the sports world as well, but nonetheless, progress is being made. And so, we have listed down 5 such sportspeople who have used their power to come out and talk about the LGBTQIA+ community and its rights. They’re helping pave the way, one day at a time and we’re all here for it. Scroll down to check them out and read about them.
The captain of the US Women’s National Soccer team, Megan Rapinoe has achieved a lot in the game. She has been an Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup winner. She came out in 2012 publicly identifying herself as gay and spoke to Out at the time saying,
I feel like sports, in general, are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out. I feel everyone is really craving for people to come out. People want—they need—to see that there are people like me playing soccer for the good ol’ U.S. of A.
She’s been extremely outspoken, advocating LGBTQIA+ rights along with gender and racial equality. In fact, she took a lead role in the USWNT’s fight for equal pay rights.
One of the greatest tennis players in history, Billie is now 76 years old. And apart from being a famous tennis player, she is equally well-known for working as gender equality and LGBTQIA+ rights activist. Did you know she was publicly outed as a lesbian back in 1981? Talking about it to NBC News in 2017, she expressed it was a horrible experience for her. Her team had also insisted her to deny her sexuality to which she refused and said,
I am going to do it. I don’t care. This is important for me to tell the truth.
Although she didn’t feel completely comfortable about being gay till the age of 51, she accepted that she’d come out earlier if she had the chance to change anything about her experiences.
Four-time Olympic gold medal winner, winner of multiple championships in the WNBA, NCAA and Euroleague, Sue Bird was private about her sexuality until recently. Sue and Megan Rapinoe have been dating since 2016 now. In 2017, she publicly came out about her sexuality in an ESPNW feature and said,
I don’t feel like I’ve not lived my life. I think people have this assumption that if you’re not talking about it, you must be hiding it like it’s this secret. That was never the case for me, it’s happening when it’s happening because that’s what feels right. So even though I understand there are people who think I should have done it sooner, it wasn’t right for me at the time. I have to be true to that. It’s my journey.
Talking about Megan and how she helped Sue understand the importance of coming out publicly to Seattle Times in 2018, she said,
Megan and I would have conversations about it, and she opened my eyes to another way of looking at it, which is that in today’s time, in today’s society, it’s still important to kind of say it to make it the norm.
Orlando Cruz came out in 2012—becoming the first openly gay professional boxer in history. Speaking to the Associated Press at the time, he said,
I want to be true to myself. I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.
Tom Daley is a British diver who won the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics. A year after this, he took to YouTube to share with the world that he was dating a man. He told the viewers,
I didn’t want my words to get twisted. I wanted to put an end to all the rumours, the speculation, and just say it.
Speaking to The Times in 2015 about labels on sexuality, he said,
My generation shouldn’t feel the need to be labelled; we are too obsessed by gender. I am not 100% straight, I am not 100% gay, I am just queer. My generation, I think, are more fluid.
He also spoke out about anti-LGBTQIA+ laws and after his gold win in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he tweeted,
37 of the competing nations criminalise being LGBT+. I feel so lucky to be able to be openly who I am without worry. I hope one day every athlete from every nation in the commonwealth will be free to compete openly as who they are too!