In one of my classic pregame speeches I often talk to about opportunity. Every so often we are presented with a chance to do something remarkable. A championship game or big win on the road. Today I'm truly excited for one of those moments with the launch of the Sports Equality Foundation.
Since I came out a couple years ago, I've found that the most important tool we have to ending homophobia and transphobia in sports is people in sports coming out. Athletes, coaches, front-office executives, members of the media. Coming out to their teammates, their coaches, their athletic directors. Some of them have shared their stories publicly. More than bringing in campus speakers or conducting sensitivity trainings, it's the people coming out who have truly changed sports culture and shined a light on change that has already occurred.
We're at a time when people in sports are ready to embrace their teammates and colleagues who are LGBT. To be sure, there are pockets of deep homophobia in sports. No doubt. But for the vast majority of athletes in high school, college and the pros, the sports world around them is ready to embrace them: They just need to share their truth.
The Sports Equality Foundation is focused on helping athletes come out and giving them the tools they need to become leaders in their own movement. It's the people who are currently active in sports who have the greatest potential to lead change on their teams, at their schools and in their sports. They have the power to inspire others to do the same.
Kathleen Hatch, a co-chair of the Foundation, has this great saying: "1 + 1 = 11." That's the power of coming out when the athlete or coach coming out has the right support around her. She has the potential to inspire teammates, friends, relatives and perfect strangers to come out in their lives, and their coming out inspires others and so on and so on. The domino effect.
The Foundation's board views coming out as a four-stage process, of which a person's actual coming out is just one part. The Foundation exists to fuel each one of those stages for people in sports: 1) Providing LGBT people the resources as they prepare to come out; 2) Coming out publicly or privately through the sharing of their truth; 3) Becoming a role model for other LGBT people; and 4) Leading change. That leads to the next person embarking on the cycle themselves.
None of these are easy, but they are each powerful. By fueling that process, the Sports Equality Foundation will accelerate the speed at which people in sports feel they can come out... by watching other out LGBT people succeed.
The Foundation will serve LGBT athletes, coaches and others in sports through a network of funding focused on helping and encouraging LGBT people in sports to be their true selves. I am honored to serve on the board of directors and chair of the advisory committee. We have created a tremendous network of advisors including some pioneers of the movement:
Jason Collins - Former NBA Player
Billy Bean - Vice President of Major League Baseball
Christina Kahrl - ESPN baseball editor
Howard Bragman - Fifteen Minutes Public Relations
Brian Sims - Former college athlete and current Congressional candidate
Conner Mertens - Football player at Willamette University
I'm most excited for the creation of our student-athlete advisory committee. In the near future we will select current student-athletes to help provide guidance and viewpoints that come from their experiences in sports today. We'll want anyone interested to share their interest with us. Stay tuned.
The foundation will have a great social media platform;
Opportunity doesn't always present itself, but when it does you have to seize the moment. I've never been more excited about the future of the LGBT sports movement as this Foundation makes the athletes, coaches and others in sports the engine that drives change. The moment is now, for the love of sport.