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Hudson Taylor: From athlete to ally

Hudson Taylor on his advocacy work — and the future for out athletes

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Hudson Taylor, Athlete Ally, gay news, Washington Blade

Hudson Taylor founded Athlete Ally in August 2010. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

By ROBERT KLEMKO

Hudson Taylor, a former University of Maryland wrestler and current Columbia University assistant wrestling coach, saw the need in 2010 for a social advocacy group pushing for LGBT equality in sports. He founded Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization focused on ending homophobia and transphobia in sports, three years ago.

We caught up with Taylor and got his thoughts on the success of the organization and the future for out professional athletes.

 

ROBERT KLEMKO: When did Athlete Ally explode from your part-time pursuit to this nationally recognized organization?

HUDSON TAYLOR: We started Athlete Ally in August 2010. The first year-and-a-half to two years was pretty slow. We were growing at the college level quite a bit. But the real expansion came when Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo came on and we started getting more athletes getting involved last fall. After him, more and more athletes started lending their voice to LGBT acceptance in sports. In the NFL, Scott Fujita and Chris Kluwe came shortly after. Those are obviously three prominent voices in the NFL and for LGBT acceptance in sports.

FIND MORE OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE SPORTS ISSUE HERE.

KLEMKO: Did you recruit these guys, or did they come to you?

TAYLOR: We recruited the majority of the athletes we work with. We adopted a shotgun approach: If we have an athlete who speaks out for marriage equality or they have a relative who’s gay, we reach out and say ‘Are you interested in getting involved?’ For all the guys who’ve signed up we’ve gotten probably triple the amount of nos. We also got a ton of our athletes from Maryland connections; Kristi Tolliver, Robbie Rogers and D’Qwell Jackson included.

 

KLEMKO: Do you have a staff?

TAYLOR: Our board is very much a working board. We have 13 board members who are almost full time working on Athlete Ally. We’ve been very fortunate to have a very dedicated board. Then we have five interns and two college graduates that we’ve just hired, and we’ll be hiring more. What we’ve found is there are a lot of college kids who are eager to get involved.

 

KLEMKO: You went from recruiting the voices to becoming an authority on the topic. What’s the next step?

TAYLOR: When all of this started, I realized there’s never been a successful social advocacy group for the minority without the majority support. We knew we needed the voices. Now our next phase is really trending down to the K-12 age group. We’ve become the official partners of the NBA, working with their incoming players, and we have great reach in college, but the cycle starts far sooner than college. So when we think about these attitudes we need to start educating when they first pick up a baseball or a football.

 

KLEMKO: Where are you with the 18-and-under demographic?

TAYLOR: We haven’t made any partnerships with any school districts in a really major way. … Here’s the plan: We’re currently creating a curriculum to train college athletes to go back into their high schools and middle schools and train the younger generation. Those guys are going to have more impact than any of these guys could. There’s a certain amount of cultural capital that athletes have with the ability to change hearts and minds in these difficult environments.

 

KLEMKO: Who reaches out to you the most, personally?

TAYLOR: A lot of folks that I’ve known growing up have reached out to me because either they are closeted or they have friends or family who are closeted. It became clear that a huge number of people I’ve known are affected by homophobia in sports. There have been closeted professional athletes who have reached out, but we’re still at the very beginning… there’s still a lot of fear and uncertainty for the closeted gay athlete.

 

KLEMKO: For the athlete who wants to help, but doesn’t want to attach his name to Athlete Ally, what’s your advice?

TAYLOR: The biggest question is, how do we explicitly go about creating an inclusive environment to everyone? Joining Athlete Ally is on one end of the spectrum, but you can also as an athlete pick five words in your life to eliminate. Say something to a teammate next time you hear an anti-gay word in the locker room. That’s a start.

 

KLEMKO: Is the bigger obstacle for your mission in the front offices, or in the locker rooms?

TAYLOR: I think it’s really difficult to make an overarching statement about that. No two experiences are exactly alike. Fears and apprehension that one closeted athlete has can be completely different from another. That said, the average NBA career is 4.7 years. It’s even shorter for NFL players. So if coming out is going to hurt an athlete’s belief that they can make a team and stay in the league, that’s an obstacle. On the other hand, you can have a really supportive owner or franchise but if you’re on a team that is using anti-gay language every day, a closeted athlete is not going to feel safe to come out in that space.

 

KLEMKO: Jason Collins popped the NBA’s cherry. How do we get the ball rolling in the NFL?

TAYLOR: Until we have a critical mass of athletes speaking out, you’re not going to see more athletes coming out. Some of the most vocal athletes have been NFL players, but when you look at how many guys have spoken out, it’s still a very small percentage. Were going to need more players, coaches and owners speaking out for real change to happen.

Robert Klemko is a University of Maryland graduate and a writer for TheMMQB.com, Sports Illustrated magazine’s online NFL destination by Peter King.

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Scottish pro Zander Murray inspires fellow soccer player to come out as gay

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, saying “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders”

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Screenshot/YouTube

Two weeks after making headlines as the first-ever senior Scottish pro soccer player to come out as gay, Zander Murray is revealing the impact his courageous decision has had on at least one closeted player. Murray tweeted a message he received that shows the difference an athlete coming out can make. 

“I just wanted to tell you that you’ve been a massive inspiration for me to come out to teammates and family,” the anonymous player told Murray, according to the tweet. 

“As a young footballer I find it difficult to be myself as it is but being gay and keeping it secret was so challenging. It felt amazing when I told my teammates, they were super supportive.” 

Murray shared the message with a heart emoji and the words: “Makes it all worthwhile young man.”

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, the Gala Fairydean Rovers, on September 16, explaining “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders.”

Screenshot/YouTube

As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Jake Daniels of Blackpool came out as gay in May, the first U.K. male pro soccer player to come out in more than 30 years. Justin Fashanu was the first in Britain men’s soccer to come out back in 1990. Homophobic and racist media reports drove Fashanu to suicide eight years later. 

Reaction to Murray’s coming out last month has been “incredible,” he’s told reporters. One of those reaching out to congratulate him was Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley. The U.K. diver sent him a DM, Murray told a British interviewer. 

“He messaged me while I was on my way back from football training in a car with four boys. I had tears in my eyes seeing his direct message, and I messaged him back.

“I said, ‘Look I am in a car on the way back from football with four boys and I’ve got tears in my eyes and I don’t even care.’”

Prior to coming out, Murray had been “living in fear 24/7,” he told Sky Sports. “I can’t explain it. You’re hiding your phone in case you get messages from friends, constantly double-checking if you have a team night out, you’re cautious with what you’re saying.

“It’s very hard, especially for myself, I’m a character in that dressing room. I’m not quiet in that dressing room, I like to have the banter and to get stuck in, so very challenging.”

But Murray said he couldn’t have decided to come out “at a better time, at a better club.” So why now? He posted the answer on Instagram with several bullet points, including:

  • “Gay male footballers in the UK need role models. 
  • Majority are terrified to come out to friends/family/teammates (trust me a few have reached out already!).”

STV Weekend News Sunday, September 18, 2022 Zander Murray

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Gay men challenge Qatar death penalty for homosexuality

Country to host 2022 World Cup

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Dr. Nasser Mohamed (Photo courtesy of Instagram)

Gay men are blowing the whistle now, two months before the World Cup, demanding the host nation of Qatar change its anti-LGBTQ ways.

The Middle Eastern country where Islam is the state religion will welcome soccer players, coaches and fans from all around the planet, beginning Nov. 20, for matches that will pit nation against nation.

Qatar has promised to welcome LGBTQ foreigners, even as its own people are tortured and put to death for being who they are. 

On Monday, Qatar’s ambassador to Germany got an earful from one of those men at a human rights conference in Frankfurt, hosted by the German Football Association, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Fan representative Dario Minden spoke in English directly to Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, about who he is and who he loves, Minden told him to “abolish the death penalty” for homosexuality. 

“I’m a man and I love men. I do — please don’t be shocked — have sex with other men. This is normal,” Minden told Al Thani. “So, please get used to it, or stay out of football. Because the most important rule in football is, football is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re lesbian, if you’re gay. It’s for everyone. For the boys. For the girls. And for everyone in between. 

“So, abolish the death penalty. Abolish all of the penalties regarding sexual and gender identity,” he said. 

Although organizers promised Al Thani an opportunity to respond, the Associated Press reports that portion of the conference was closed to the public and the news media and was not televised. 

Earlier, Al Thani reportedly complained to those assembled that the issue of human rights was a distraction from the World Cup, even though the event was titled, “Sport and Human Rights.” 

“We all care about human rights,” said Al Thani. “But I would have enjoyed (it) more if I saw some concentration not only on just one subject, but the enjoyment of football and the football effect on people around the world.” 

More than 5,000 miles away in San Francisco, a gay Qatari physician has organized a petition to tell the land of his birth: Love Is Not A Crime. 

Doctor Nasser Mohamed decided to come out in 2010 following a visit to the U.S., and spent his residency in Connecticut before moving to California in 2015. 

Mohamed wrote in an op-ed published by Outsports last month that he has spent the last decade caring for the LGBTQ community in outpatient settings and growing as an activist. 

“Being an LGBT person is a criminal offense in the legal system in Qatarm as is sex between two men. There are state-sponsored conversion-therapy practices, and LGBT-affirming psychotherapy is not offered.” He wrote how law enforcement uses media and chat rooms to find, jail and punish people for being LGBTQ. 

“Visibility of the local LGBT community in Qatar, and the exposure of their treatment, are absolutely essential,” Mohamed wrote. “I am doing my part by speaking up.”

Editor’s note: Find out about Mohamed’s petition by clicking here. He is also raising money through a GoFundMe account to provide him with funding for his activism as well as security and protection.

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Carl Nassib returns to Tampa

Former Las Vegas Raiders defensive end came out as gay in June 2021

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Carl Nassib (Screenshot courtesy of YouTube/KUVV Fox 5 in Las Vegas)

Carl Nassib, who made headlines in June 2021 when he became the NFL’s first out gay active player, reportedly has signed a one-year contract with his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

The 29-year-old defensive end was released by the Las Vegas Raiders in March, and became a free agent. NFL sources said that was due to his contracted salary amount — $7.75 million — and not any reflection on his sexual orientation.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news with a tweet

When Nassib came out last summer, he announced he was donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, and for Pride Month this year he made a new pledge to help LGBTQ youth. He promised to match donations to the Trevor Project, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000.

Will Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady welcome Nassib?

As Outsports reported, he’s never made any comments about playing with someone gay. Brady’s former New England Patriots teammate Ryan O’Callaghan recalled that before he came out in 2017, following his retirement, there was one time that he missed the team bus and Brady gave him a ride in his car to that day’s practice.

O’Callaghan told Outsports he believes Brady would have “absolutely” accepted him if he had come out at that time.

“Being married to a super model I’m sure he’s met a few gay people in his life,” said O’Callaghan.

Brady wed Brazilian fashion model Gisele Bündchen in 2009.

Legendary Boston sports columnist Steve Buckley of the Athletic came out as gay in 2011 while at the Boston Herald. He told Outsports that Brady has always been friendly and cooperative, even after Buckley came out.

This is the second time around at Raymond James Stadium for Nassib. He played for the Buccaneers for two seasons prior to joining the Raiders in 2020. His NFL career began in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns. 

As Jason Owens reported for Yahoo! Sports, Nassib was far more productive in Tampa as a part-time starter, recording 6.5 sacks in 2018 and six sacks in 2019. The NFL’s website shows he played just 242 defensive snaps and earned 1.5 sacks last season. 

In 86 games including 37 starts, Nassib’s recorded 22 career sacks, 164 tackles, 53 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles.

In addition to Brady, Nassib’s new teammates are Akiem Hicks and William Gholston at defensive end and outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Given that the Buccaneers finished seventh in the NFL in sacks last season with 47, Nassib will be expected to improve Tampa Bay’s chances when their season begins on Sept. 11 in Dallas.

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