Just five days after hundreds of thousands of marchers and spectators gathered to the streets of New York City for the annual Pride March in support of the LGBTQ community, Minnesota United midfielder, Collin Martin, came out as gay. Martin became Major League Soccer’s (MLS) only gay player active in the league. He was also the second openly gay player in their history upon his coming out via Twitter.
Before a match, Martin tweeted:
Tonight my team, @MNUFC , is having their Pride night. It's an important night for me — I'll be announcing that I am an openly gay player in Major League Soccer. #soccerforall pic.twitter.com/cOJQXfrBiv
— Collin Martin (@martcw12) June 29, 2018
“As we celebrate Pride night, I want to thank my teammates for their unconditional support of who I am,” Martin said during event.
“In light of my experience as a professional athlete, I want to take this moment to encourage others who play sports professionally, or otherwise to have confidence that sport will welcome them wholeheartedly,” he added.
“June is Pride month, and I am proud to be playing for Pride and to be playing as an out gay man. I’m proud that my entire team and the management of Minnesota United know that I am gay.
I have received only kindness and acceptance from everyone and that has made the decision to come out publicly that much easier.”
Over the past few years, more professional athletes have publicly been opening up about their sexuality. However, athletes in the past have had to hide who they are due to the shame that they may face.
It has just been four years since Michael Sam, the former SEC Defensive Player of the Year, came out as gay and became the National Football League’s (NFL) first publicly gay player to be drafted into the league.
Jason Collins, a former 18th overall draft pick, who went on to play 13 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA), became the first openly gay athlete to actually play in any of the four major North American pro-sports leagues upon coming out in 2013.
Martin’s coming out is good for the MLS and professional sports. It helps to encourage athletes to open up about their sexualities. However, the mark of disgrace associated with belonging to the LGBTQ community does not end here.
Being a non-heterosexual athlete still comes with many obstacles. This includes harassment, discrimination and feeling like a distinct minority in one’s own locker room.
Jesse Smith, a collegiate swimmer for Ramapo College of New Jersey, who has been swimming competitively for 12 years, and who also happens to be openly gay, discussed being a gay male athlete.
“I was a competitive athlete for four years before I came out as gay. During those four years, I wasn’t really positive whether or not I was actually gay. I guess I was finding myself out,” the 21-year old Smith said.
“I remember going to a competition in the South. Many of the men from other teams got up and walked away from me in the locker room,” Smith added. “I was terrified.”
“I truly don’t think there can be anything an individual can do to persuade someone’s non-acceptance. One thing I have learned from homophobes is that they were raised to believe what they believe about homosexuals.”
“I do believe though that professional athletes coming out publicly has a big positive impact. It makes it easier for younger members of the LGBTQ community to finally come out,” Smith concluded.
While the respect for Martin’s courage is high, there is still a long way to go in the world of sports’ progression to reducing the unrelenting weight one carries by being an athlete who is also a part of the LGBTQ community.
By: Mohamad Hashash