I spoke with Rey Ortiz, a Mexican-American pro soccer player currently on loan from MLS team FC Cincinnati to USL Championship club Charlotte Independence and a new Athlete Ally Ambassador, about the power of athletes using their platforms to speak up and out.
What are the issues you’re passionate about, and why is it important for you to use your platform as an athlete to speak out about them?
A couple of issues that I am very passionate about are racial inequality, ICE detaining kids in detention camps, and LGBTQI+ inclusivity. It’s important for athletes to use the platforms they’ve earned to speak out about what they’re passionate about, especially right now in this crucial time. As professional athletes, we have a platform, which means people listen, respond and stay tuned to what we have to say. Bringing global awareness to important issues through our social media helps as many people as possible learn about the causes we care about, and how they can help.
What does being an ally mean to you?
Being an ally means that I lift up the voices of those who are oppressed. Being an ally is more than just advocating from afar, but also educating yourself and others on issues that hurt, oppress and/or take advantage of those in a certain community.
What inspired you to get involved with Athlete Ally?
I have friends and family who are LGBTQI+, and I wanted to find a way to help them fight the oppression they face every day. That’s why I started thinking about getting involved with Athlete Ally.
How do you see athlete activism evolving?
I think that athlete activism has really changed. People are beginning to notice that by using their platforms, athletes with huge followings from around the world can help people who normally wouldn’t be involved to step up and engage on what matters.
What message would you give to a young LGBTQI+ athlete who is wondering if they can be who they are and play the sport they love?
The message I would give to a young LGBTQI+ athlete is this: Walk the roads that have been paved by other LGBTQI+ athletes around the world. You will always have allies from different communities advocating, educating and pushing forward the dream of inclusivity for LGBTQI+ athletes. You are not alone.