American pro-sports aren’t exactly welcoming to LGBTQ athletes. If you need proof, just remember that Minnesota United midfielder Collin Martin (pictured above) is the only one openly gay male athlete in all of American pro-sports right now. But Martin has teamed up with Athlete Ally and the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) in hopes of creating a sort of #MeToo moment addressing homophobia and queerphobia in sports.
Working with Athlete Ally, an organization focused on ending homophobia and transphobia in sports, and RISE — an “alliance of professional sports leagues, organizations, athletes, educators, media networks and sports professionals using sports to bring people together to promote understanding, respect and equality” — Martin has been speaking to California university student-athletes and championing initiatives to address anti-LGBTQ sentiment in sports before it ever appears on-field, during practices or in the locker room.
Together with the aforementioned groups, Martin wants to develop training that educates college and university coaches about sexual misconduct and “what’s appropriate with your students and with your players.” This includes educating coaches on the role of homophobia in sports and giving them strategies for shutting down anti-LGBTQ language, like when team members or opponents call weak or ineffective things “gay” or use the word “faggot” to intimidate opponents.
In a recent interview, Martin says, “There are kids out there that still are questioning themselves and questioning their spot in sports just based on their sexuality.”
He continues, “We need to have a better culture in place for our young kids, and if that can come from coaches and better education in terms of how they’re creating a healthy environment for their teams at a young age.”
Martin’s efforts won’t be easy as homophobia still dominates sports. A 2015 survey of 9,500 athletes from six English-speaking countries found 83% of male athletes remain closeted to their teammates, 84% had witnessed homophobia in a sporting match and 80% didn’t feel safe being openly gay as a competitor or spectator.