More than X's and O's

Brandon Peter Melnyk

Political • Aug 15th, 14

Athlete Ally is a 501(c)3 nonprofit sports resource founded by Hudson Taylor in January 2011 with the goal of removing homophobia and transphobia in sport culture. Over the last two years, Hudson has been to numerous colleges, large and small, providing information on how to achieve this goal. During each presentation, he asks the audience to sign the Athlete Ally pledge:

“I pledge to lead my athletic community to respect and welcome all persons, regardless of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Beginning right now, I will do my part to promote the best of athletics by making all players feel respected on and off the field.”

The power behind this pledge has more than 12,000 signatures and is growing daily. The impact of Athlete Ally continues to reach thousands of adolescent, collegiate, and professional athletes alike.

Mr. Taylor is not alone in this endeavor of achieving equality. He has assembled a Board of Directors to keep the vision of Athlete Ally strong and keep the organization full steam ahead. Joe Solmonese, former President of the Human Rights Campaign, is included on this Board as a Managing Director; he is also a founding partner.

Sean Avery, former NHL player, is also a Board member as Chief Strategy Officer and Editor At Large. Some more recognizable names come in the form of Athlete Ally Ambassadors. The role an Athlete Ally Ambassador is to carry out the organization’s mission, and to be a liaison among their respective team. A sampling of the power behind the message Athlete Ally is delivering:

  • World Champion Cricketer Alex Blackwell
  • Rugby player David Pocock
  • Australian Rules Football Brock McClean
  • Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens
  • Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings
  • Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns
  • Connor Barwin of the Houston Texans
  • Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets

Each current athlete is an Athlete Ally Ambassador, offering their own experiences and voice. However, they all have one common goal: achieve equality in sports and change the locker room culture where everyone is respected. Earlier this year, Brendon Ayanbadejo played in the Super Bowl, and he decided well beforehand he would use the media coverage to his full advantage. Ayanbadejo spoke adamantly about the LGBT community in sports and the need for attitudes to change to allow a current big four athlete (MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL) to come out as LGBT. Since 2009, he has been a proud supporter of the LGBT community, whether it is with the NOH8 campaign, lecturing, or appearing on a national stage. Chris Kluwe, who was the first to join the Athlete Ally Ambassador program, has been a little outspoken in his support for the LGBT community. An example of this can be read in a response to Emmett C. Burns, a delegate in Maryland, where he voiced his support for same-sex marriage. At the very least, he offers some humor, while still delivering a heartfelt message of equality and respect.

Along with my partner, I heard Hudson Taylor give a presentation last fall at Grand Valley State University. Hearing a 26-year-old deliver a powerful and relatable message with such conviction and confidence truly moved me. His speech gave me hope and a vision that one day, the culture in the locker room will change, and it will change for the better. With him leading the charge and a plethora of athletes sharing the vision, what is to say equality won’t happen? There are strong supporters from every corner of the world and from every sport. Locker room by locker room, team by team, the sports culture is changing.

www.athleteally.org
Follow Hudston Taylor on Twitter: @hudsonism
Follow Brendon Ayanbadejo on Twitter: @brendon310
Follow Chris Kluwe on Twitter: @chriswarcraft