Athletes have reach and influence. But only a few approach the public and advocate more tolerance and equality. Manuel Neuer, the captain and goalkeeper of the German national team, shows how important such symbolic appearances are. As on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, Neuer wore a rainbow colored captain's armband in the match against France at EURO 2020 and thus set an apparently small but yet impressive symbol of diversity and tolerance. A blessing for the LGBTQ + scene - and for Manuel Neuer only a minimum of effort.
Here are our other top 8 athletes who use their reach and give a voice to the LGBTQ + community through their outing, small gestures or large donations and their commitment in organizations and foundations.
“I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” With these words, Carl Nassib, player of the Las Vegas Raiders, came out on his Instagram account on June 22, 2021. A sensation: He is the first active NFL player to make his homosexuality public. In American football, which is considered by many to be the manliest of all sports, few players have had the courage to venture into the public eye. And if so, then only after the end of their career. The reactions to Carl Nassib's announcement, both from fans and players, club and league, were consistently positive. Let's keep our fingers crossed that he not only encourages other players with his outing, but also that is wish wil be fulfilled, namely that one day videos like his will no longer be necessary.
Megan Rapinoe captained the U.S. national team to the 2019 World Cup title in women's soccer. But she's also a leader off the field: time and again, she takes an outspoken stand for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. "We're constantly oppressed in all sorts of ways," she told "NBC" in 2019. "So I think the very fact that we're at the top of the world in sports is in some ways a form of protest and defiance."
Figure skater and ice dancer Guillaume Cizeron is absolutely world class: Olympic silver in Pyeongchang 2018, four World Championship titles and five European Championship victories. Together with his dance partner Gabriella Papadakis, the Frenchman is also one of the favourites for the 2022 Olympic Games. In 2020, Cizeron symbolically used the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia for his own coming out: on Instagram, he showed himself with his boyfriend for the first time. He said he wanted to use coming out to help LGBTQ+ people with less open environments than his own.
Briton Gus Kenworthy has been part of the freestyle skiing elite for years: silver at the 2014 Olympics, plus countless medals on the Winter Dew Tour or the World Championship title in the halfpipe in 2020. For the LGBTQ+ community, however, he is also the first medal winner in action sports ever to dare to come out. Kenworthy did so in an ESPN interview in October 2015 - before the start of a new season, that is. "I wanted to do it in my own words and once and for all - and hopefully by doing that, I helped kids who are in the same situation as me," he later told Attitude magazine. Before his start in the qualifying heat at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, his then-partner Matthew Wilkas gave him a kiss in front of cameras, bringing attention to the LGBTQ+ community worldwide.
Danish footballer Pernille Harder is currently not only the most expensive female footballer in the world, with a 330,000 euro transfer fee paid, but also a loud voice of the LGBTQ+ community. Harder, who is bisexual and in a relationship with Swedish footballer Magdalena Eriksson, has been actively campaigning against homophobia since 2019. Men's football, on the other hand, lacks a figurehead, according to Harder: "There are certainly gay and bisexual men in football, but they don't dare to stand out from the crowd because the tone in the dressing room and among the fans there is a different one."
Patricio Manuel is the first transgender boxer in the U.S. to compete in a professional fight. Manuel, who made his transition through hormone treatment in 2013 and upper body surgery in 2014, was previously a five-time champion in U.S. amateur women's boxing. In December 2018, he competed in his first professional fight after his transition against Hugo Aguilar and won on points. Meanwhile, in addition to his boxing career, Manuel is a keynote speaker on LGBTQ+ community issues and the face of a campaign for boxing brand Everlast.
In Germany, no active professional footballer has yet come out as homosexual. Thomas Hitzlsperger nevertheless gave the LGBTQ+ community a voice in German football with his coming out in January 2014 after his career ended. The ex-national player was the first prominent German professional footballer to go public with the issue. As a TV pundit and chairman of the board of VfB Stuttgart, Hitzlsperger is still prominently represented in German football today. As an ambassador for the Federal Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation, he is socially committed to combating discrimination against the community.
When Collin Martin came out as gay in June 2018, he was the only active soccer player in the world who dared to take this step. At that time, the US American played for Minnesota United in Major League Soccer, the highest division in the USA. He has been kicking for the San Diego Loyal since 2020 and became the target of homophobic attacks from his counterpart Junior Flemmings in September 2020. When Martin complained to the referee about it, he himself saw a red card (which was subsequently cancelled). After the opposing team's coach refused to apologise for Flemmings' behaviour and remove him from the pitch, the San Diego Loyal team walked off the pitch in protest, thus abandoning the match.