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Today Athlete Ally welcomes MMA Fighters Jessica Aguilar and Nicole Upshaw, National Women’s Soccer League Forward Zakiya Bywaters, Great Britain’s #1 male blind ski racer John Dickinson-Lilley, Canadian National Soccer Team Defender Carmelina Moscato, and bodybuilder Sgt. Shane Ortega as Professional Ambassadors.
They join more than 140 other professional athletes as Athlete Ally Ambassadors. Athlete Ally Ambassadors help the organization promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) inclusion and equality in sports and under the law, by speaking out to their peers and fan bases.
“Athlete Ally is honored to welcome such a dedicated and diverse group of athletes to the Athlete Ally Ambassador family,” said Hudson Taylor, Athlete Ally Founder and Executive Director. “As Athlete Ally continues to grow our base of professional athlete allies, we continue to strengthen the movement to eliminate homophobia and transphobia in sport. As we look ahead to 2016, we couldn’t be prouder to have the best and the brightest from the worlds of MMA, soccer, bodybuilding, and skiing, by our side.”
Jessica Aguilar, an MMA fighter based in Houston, Texas, and Coconut Creek, Florida, said: “Civil rights belong to everyone. We all matter. I am an athlete that wants all athletes, gay or straight, to know that they matter and will be treated with the respect and equality that they deserve.” (Profile Here: http://www.athleteally.org/allies/jessica-aguilar/)
Zakiya Bywaters, originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, now resides in Illinois where she is a Forward for the Chicago Red Stars. “I believe in the love for all humanity and equal opportunity in sports and in life,” Bywaters said. “I am honored to be a part of an organization that allows athletes to use their platform to create positive social change.” (Profile Here: http://www.athleteally.org/allies/zakiya-bywaters/)
John Dickinson-Lilley is Great Britain’s top male blind ski racer. He skis with his Race Guide Jack Davey, and they are both on the road to the Winter Olympics in 2018. John and Jack are both members of the Para-Snowsport GB Alpine Ski Team. “As an out disabled man I have first-hand experience of discrimination,” Dickinson-Lilley said. “Equality is a fundamental right and sport should be no exception.” (Profile Here: https://www.athleteally.org/allies/john-dickinson-lilley/)
Carmelina Moscato, a defender with the Canadian National Soccer Team is also on Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers team, and is a graduate of Penn State University. “I feel so fortunate to align with an organization that stands for equality in sport and raises social awareness for all of us to be more open and accepting of all people,” Moscato said. “The only way we can advance equality and inclusion (is) by having people authentically live their purpose, void of social pressures, judgements and expectations of who and what to be.” (Profile here: http://www.athleteally.org/allies/carmelina-moscato/)
Sgt. Shane Ortega is one of the first openly transgender people in the U.S. military, and also a bodybuilder. Sgt. Ortega resides in Oahu, Hawaii. “I find it important to share yourself with the world to make it a better place for one reason, because we all are human,” Sgt. Ortega said. “Competition and the strive for better is inherent to the human experience. I always want to open up doors for others but also make sure they stay open by creating a permanent reform.” (Profile here: http://www.athleteally.org/allies/sgt-shane-ortega/)
Nicole Upshaw is a Chandler, Arizona-based MMA fighter. “As athletes we are often respected for our abilities and the great things we do for our sport, but we also have the ability to use our platform to be respected for who we are and what we believe in,” Upshaw said. “I am so proud be an ambassador for Athlete Ally and express my stance on equality for all LGBT individuals every time I step into the cage. No one should be afraid to try out for the team or worry about discrimination from their teammates because of who they are.” (Profile Here: http://www.athleteally.org/allies/nicole-upshaw/)
Athlete Ally’s mission is to educate and activate athletic communities to eliminate homophobia and transphobia in sports and to exercise their leadership to champion LGBT equality. Founded in 2011, Athlete Ally has worked with the NBA, WNBA, and MLB on matters of LGBT respect and inclusion; led the Principle 6 campaign that helped convince the International Olympic Committee to include sexual orientation in the non-discrimination clause of the Olympic Charter; and counts more than 145 college, professional, and Olympic athletes among its dedicated and active Ambassadors.