Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe Join Athlete Ally with 16 Fellow National Women's Soccer League Players

  • Jul 25, 2013

A group of 18 professional soccer players from the National Women’s Soccer League join Athlete Ally today, in the nonprofit’s ongoing effort to combat homophobia and transphobia in sports. The leadership of these athletes marks a significant step toward addressing the often underrepresented issue of homophobia and transphobia in women’s sports. Sarah Huffman, of the Western New York Flash, spearheaded the involvement of these players to ensure that athletes are welcomed and respected regardless of their sexual orientation.

Seven teams are represented in total; Heather O’Reilly and Sydney Leroux from the Boston Breakers, Sarah Huffman, Abby Wambach, Estelle Johnson, and training players Ashley Walsh and Ashley Grove from the Western New York Flash, Megan Rapinoe, Keelin Winters, and Liz Bogus of the Seattle Reign, Lydia Vandenbergh, Erin McLeod, Leslie Osborne and Amy LePeilbet of the Chicago Red Stars, Karina LeBlanc, Meleana Shim and Marian Dougherty from the Portland Thorns, and Lori Lindsey from the Washington Spirit.

“I am proud to be an athlete ally because I dream of a world full of equal opportunities and treatment,” Huffman said. “I believe that sports are a place where everybody belongs. Discrimination based upon sexual orientation, race, gender have no place in the world - nevertheless sports. I am excited to be an ally and stand up for people like me in the LGBT community.”  

Megan Rapinoe made headlines during the Olympics as being an out member of the LGBT community, and says she wants to help those young men and women who face some of the same struggles she did. “I want to be an Ally because I have walked in your shoes, and walked the road ahead of you, and want you to know you will be okay, and you have more support than you ever dared to dream of,” she said.

Meleana Shim, also a proud member of the LGBT community, added: “Every aspiring athlete who is questioning his or her sexuality should have positive role models who are proud of who they are.”

“There has been a time, even in this last year, that a woman in sports, thought to be even associated with lesbians or bisexuals, would not be given an opportunity to participate, to become a coach or even an administrator,” says Helen Carroll, Sports Project Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “There is an ultra-feminized image of a woman athlete coveted by the media and presented by sports leaders that is a feeding ground for rampant sexism and homophobia directed toward girls and women in sport. Today, a large step was taken to change that.” Carrol added: “18 National Women's Soccer League Players came forward to say, ‘No More!’. With that visible courage from these women, who represent all women, we see world class athletes pledge to be allies for all LGBT sports persons, support the athletic talent of participants and the brilliant work of coaches and sports leaders that are LGBT.  Women standing up for women takes the power away from sexism in sport and is an excellent example of how women’s combined efforts are a huge strength needed to halt sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sports.”

Founder and Executive Director of Athlete Ally Hudson Taylor said of this announcement, “Seeing so many elite level soccer players speak out in support of the LGBT community will change lives, save lives, and make sports better for everyone. I am proud of the leadership of these NWSL players, and am confident that because of them, homophobia and transphobia in sports will soon be a thing of the past.”

As Athlete Ally Ambassadors, these players joins over 60 professional athletes. Other ambassadors include: Olympic wrestler Ellis Coleman, NBA star Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), WNBA player Kristi Toliver (Los Angeles Sparks), an NFL contingent of Brendon Ayanbadejo (Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens,) Chris Kluwe (Oakland Raiders), Scott Fujita (New Orleans Saints), Donte Stallworth (New England Patriots), D’Qwell Jackson (Cleveland Browns), Connor Barwin (Philadelphia Eagles) and free agents Chris Gocong, and Eric Barton, tennis greats Andy Roddick, James Blake and Mardy Fish, MLS stars Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Stephen McCarthy and Chris Seitz, Dan Grunfeld (Israeli Basketball), Rashad Evans (UFC), The Wales Women’s National Lacrosse Team, 12 Minnesota United FC players, and four Australians in rugby stars David Pocock and James Hilterbrand, Australian Rules Football player Brock McLean, and World-Champion cricketer Alex Blackwell along with scores of college athletes who have already signed on. These players will act as liaisons between Athlete Ally and their peers and fans. They will help promote Athlete Ally’s mission to end homophobia and transphobia in sports by speaking out and encouraging their colleagues to join in the effort.