Tag Archives: rugby

Crossing Ponds

19 Apr

While we continue to witness the ramifications of Kobe Bryant’s “fucking faggot” heard round the world, evidenced by the subsequent $100,000 fine and ongoing PR disaster, I feel compelled to change the tone of the conversation and shine a light on someone slightly more deserving of our collective attention.

In response to Kobe Bryant’s homophobic epithet, UK rugby icon Ben Cohen said, “I understand the heat and passion of competition at the highest levels. But we all must remember that strong bodies must be balanced with strong characters and work towards that end. Our positions as role models demand it.”

Ben Cohen, part-time rugby icon and full-time ally, is taking his message of tolerance and community across the pond to the States.

A long-time proponent of the LGBT rights, Cohen is straight. But that hasn’t stopped him from promoting equality on and off the playing field. “Beer with Ben,” part of The Ben Cohen Acceptance Tour, will visit Atlanta, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., in May and will feature Cohen challenging others to stand up against homophobia and bullying while urging respect and acceptance regardless of orientation.

“If we save one person’s life, or get someone to think different, then I’m doing a good job.”

Asked what prompted him to take a stand, Cohen replied, “For some years now we have been receiving messages and emails from people all over the world with some heart wrenching stories. I really felt that I wanted to do something about it and I felt that I could.”

Cheers to you, Mr. Cohen. Thank you for all that you have and will continue to do. The message of love you bring with you from the U.K. to the U.S. is rich and inspiring, and should spark the attention of at least one sports icon whose pockets are a little lighter tonight.

Wrestling for Equality

11 Apr

Kudos today go out to Hudson Taylor, a college wrestler — now coach — who stood up for equality and justice when nobody else did.

Taylor, who is straight, found himself in a unique position while in school. A theater major, he was surrounded by an open and accepting network of friends and classmates who made others struggling with their sexuality feel more comfortable and at ease about who they are. On the wrestling mat, however, his peers weren’t so open minded.

“It’s tough being a college athlete. Guys like to bring each other down and use hurtful words. But I think you need to be conscious of your thoughts, words and actions.”

Taylor began speaking out when he noticed his teammates making disparaging remarks. In addition, he wore a Human Rights Campaign sticker on the side of his headgear during wrestling matches, drawing further praise and criticism for his cause.

“Certainly when I first stared this, I had a lot of arguments with friends, family, teammates, about the politics.”

But after being interviewed by OutSports, Taylor began receiving a wave of support from closeted athletes struggling to come to terms with their identity and fear of being labeled a gay athlete in an environment where tolerance can still be hard to come by.

“They told me that nobody was speaking out for them and letting them know they can feel included and respected. It really made me want to do more.”

Taylor founded and is a spokesperson for Athlete Ally, which advocates respect and welcome arms for all athletes, gay or straight, as well as providing tools to combat homophobia. The message seems to be connecting with many, Taylor says the outpouring of support from those who wish to help and get involved has been surprising.

“This is only about how we treat one another, how we speak to one another. It’s not about politics or religion or anything else. I just want to create a safe space for people.”

Taylor joins the likes of Gareth Thomas, a famous European rugby player whose own coming out has sent ripples throughout the rough ‘n tumble sport. “I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player first and foremost. I am a man,” Thomas said. “I just happen to be gay. It’s irrelevant.”

Like Thomas, Taylor’s actions further illustrate the chain reaction that one act of kindness can have. How far it will reach and how many people it will touch, we’ll never know. But his example is one we should all aspire to, and as more allies — gay and straight — stand up for what’s right, there’s little we can’t accomplish.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Nelson Mandela