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Celebrating Pride Month: Incredible Athletes at the Top of Their Game

There are so many reasons to idolize professional athletes. Competing as an athlete at a high level takes mental and physical discipline, strength, perseverance, and a heck of a lot of time dedicated to sport. We've compiled a list of inspiring athletes from the LGBTQIA+ community who are at the top of their game and have invited the world to know the fantastic people they are inside and out.

In today's world, professional athletes become so much more than competitors, often also taking on roles as public figures. From social media to online news outlets or even this article, if you're competing in sports at a high level, the public typically has access to many facets of your life beyond athletic accomplishments.

This month we are celebrating professional athletes that are members of the LGBTQIA+ community, some of whom are some of the first professionals in their sport to invite the world to know how they identify.

You're likely familiar with the notion of "coming out." Coming out is opening up to the world that you are LGBTQIA+. This expectation creates damaging and unfair pressure for LGBTQIA+ people forced to feel they need to announce how they identify. People who are heterosexual or cisgender aren't expected to come out, so why should people who are LGBTQIA+ need to?

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community should be valued, celebrated, and protected during Pride Month and every day all year long.

Throughout this article, we'll be referring to athletes who are publicly out as someone who has invited the world in. People are incredibly dynamic, and how someone identifies can be fluid throughout their life. "Inviting in" is an ongoing conversation about growth and identity that happens on the terms of the individual over their lifetime. Continue reading to learn more about some inspiring athletes from the LGBTQIA+ community that have invited the world in to see the incredible people they are inside and out.

1. Carl Nassib


Current team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Position: Defensive end

Hometown: West Chester, Pennsylvania

College: Penn State University

This defensive end was the first NFL player to let the world know he identifies as gay. He cites the need for more representation in the sport as one of the reasons why he chose to open up about his sexual orientation. Nassib says that going public with the announcement took him 15 years. Since then, he has donated $100,000 to the non-profit called The Trevor Project, the leading organization in helping to end suicide and protect mental health in LGBTQIA+ youth.

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A post shared by Carl Nassib (@carlnassib)

2. Luke Prokop


Current team: Norfolk Admirals

Position: Defense

Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta

College: Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy

The first NHL player to tell the world that he identifies as gay is Luke Prokop. As a youth athlete, Prokop knew of his sexual orientation and that he wanted to play in the NHL. After being drafted in 2020, he announced his sexual orientation in 2021. As a self-proclaimed, generally open individual, Prokop wanted to compete in the NHL as his genuine self. Since then, Prokop has advocated for the LGBTQIA+ community and has continued to speak out as many NHL teams have taken steps backward with inclusivity in the sport of hockey.

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3. Renée Richards


Current team: Retired in 1981

Position: N/A

Hometown: New York, New York

College: Yale University

Tennis star Renée Richards is a pioneer in professional tennis and the only person to compete in the women's and men's US Open. Richards informed the world she was transgender after transitioning in the 1970s. She then went on to participate in the Women's US Open and was rejected to participate. Ultimately, she filed a discrimination lawsuit against the US Tennis Association and won.

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4. Megan Rapinoe


Current team: OL Reign

Position: Forward

Hometown: Redding, California

College: University of Portland

This U.S. Women’s National Team co-captain has dedicated her platform to women's rights and the LGBTQIA+ community. Rapinoe invited the world to know her sexual orientation in 2012 and is cited saying she wanted to announce her identity publicly, to build acceptance and normalize homosexuality. Since she took the spotlight in 2019 after winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup, she has continued to be open about her sexuality and the fight for gender equality, specifically regarding equal pay. In 2019 Rapinoe was part of a class action lawsuit filed against the U.S. Soccer Federation for pay discrimination which they ended up winning with a well-earned $22 million payment.

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5. Sue Bird


Current team: Retired in 2022

Position: Guard

Hometown: Syosset, New York

College: University of Connecticut

Sue Bird is an incredible basketball player and is considered one of the best women ever to play the game. During her legendary 19 years in the WNBA, she started every game and won five Olympic medals and four championships. Throughout her professional career, those close to her knew how she sexually identified. In recent years, she decided to invite the world to know her sexuality. In 2020, Bird publicly celebrated her engagement to Megan Rapinoe.

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A post shared by Sue Bird (@sbird10)

6. Patricio Manuel


Current team: Duarte Boxing Club

Position: Super featherweight

Hometown: Santa Monica, California

College: N/A

USA National Armature Boxing Champion Patricio Manuel faced personal losses when he opened up to the world as a transgender man. He lost his coach and his gym. He is quoted saying he would never compromise who is to make others feel comfortable. After transitioning, Manuel continued to box professionally and, in 2018, won a professional match against Hugo Aguilar, making him the United States' first publicly transgender boxer.

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7. Adam Rippon

Figure Skating

Current team: Skating Club of New York, Team USA

Position: N/A

Hometown: Scranton, Pennsylvania

College: N/A

In 2015 the talented Adam Rippon invited the world to know his sexuality as a gay man in an article in SKATING magazine. After qualifying for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, Rippon made history as the first openly gay American to go to the Winter Games, where he won a bronze medal and was honored by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) among many other equal rights organizations. Beyond athletics, Rippon is a public figure for LGBTQIA+ rights and an advocate for being authentically yourself.

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A post shared by Adam Rippon (@adaripp)

This Pride Month and every day, it is essential to recognize the many pioneers that have blazed trails as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Although we have broken ground, and there is much to celebrate, there is still so much work to do to ensure members of the LGBTQIA+ community are safe and free from discrimination. Find youth programs in your area, and encourage your family, friends, and teammates to celebrate individuality, and encourage inclusivity in sports and life.

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