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Out Olympian Kenworthy & Paralympian Dunkin on Tokyo & LGBTQ Sports

“The fact that LGBTQ youth drop out of sports at twice the rate of their heterosexual & gender counterparts, it doesn’t have to be that way.”

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Screenshot via Los Angeles Blade

TOKYO – Gus Kenworthy is in Tokyo for the Summer Games, but not to compete. The  Olympic Gold Medalist recently joined Paralympian Gold Medalist Abby Dunkin in a Zoom conversation with Athlete Ally founder and executive director Hudson Taylor and the head of LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion for Procter & Gamble, Brent Miller. 

“I felt like I knew that if I came out, there must be someone else,” Kenworthy said. “I was like, there’s someone else in skiing or an action sports or another kid who is going to resonate with my story. And if I can even help one person, then it will be worth it.”

This group of athletes and allies tackled the difficult issues of coming out in sports, fears of rejection, suicide attempts and competing authentically as well as the controversy over transgender inclusion in sports, both at the Olympics and in high schools and colleges across the U.S. 

“Only 24% of LGBTQ youth participate in sports,” noted Taylor. “The fact that LGBTQ youth drop out of sports at twice the rate of their heterosexual and gender counterparts, it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Dunkin credited Paralympian gold medalist Stephanie Wheeler as an inspiration both on the court and in everyday life as an out lesbian. 

“Stephanie really creates such a great environment for me and other athletes and also our staff, too, that were out at the time,” said Dunkin. “And that really impacted me to come out and be myself.“ Wheeler is also head coach of the Univ. of Illinois women’s wheelchair basketball team. 

As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, there are more than 142 out LGBTQ athletes competing in Tokyo, a record for any Olympic Games. And with trans nonbinary soccer player Quinn on their way to a potential gold medal, making history with out trans woman Laurel Hubbard and out trans BMX competitor Chelsea Wolfe in Tokyo, Miller says their first steps are inspiring to people all around the world, no matter what their gender identity or sexual orientation is. 

“It’s about bringing people together, supporting people, creating mutual understanding, and really celebrating all of humanity,” Miller said. “And now for us, bringing those LGBTQ+ stories forward is critically important because we see the value of what sport can bring.”

Watch their conversation with sports editor Dawn Ennis by clicking here.

Equal Representation in Sports: Why LGBTQ+ Visibility Matters

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San Diego runner celebrates the end of their trailblazing season

Nikki Hiltz came out as trans nonbinary this year and is aiming to compete in the next Olympic Summer Games scheduled for Paris in 2024

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Nikki Hiltz (Photo Credit: NYRR Media Relations)

SAN DIEGO – Sunday marked the last race of 2021 for Santa Cruz native Nikki Hiltz, and they described their season on social media as “filled with ups, downs, and a whole lot of self discovery.” Hiltz, who came out as trans nonbinary in March, reflected on all they’ve achieved.

Far from their home in San Diego, the 26-year-old Adidas sprinter finished second on Sunday in the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile in New York City, with a time of 4:23.0, just over a second behind first-place finisher Olympian Jemma Reekie of the United Kingdom. Shannon Osika of Ann Arbor, Mich. was right on Hiltz’s heels to finish third.

“I think with any sport, especially running, you bring your whole self to the starting line,” Hiltz told the Los Angeles Blade. “It’s not like I’m bringing just the athlete part of Nikki; I’m bringing my whole identity.” 

Their coming out as trans nonbinary, they said, definitely impacted her performance. 

“The closer I can be to myself and stay true to myself, the faster and the better I run, essentially,” said Hiltz. “I am someone that runs with a lot of emotion and grit. And so when I’m at war with myself or when I wasn’t out of the closet, it really shows on the track. And then when I’m at peace with myself and I’m living my most authentic life, that also really shows on the track.” 

Off the track, Hiltz has been exploring their passion for the LGBTQ community and their interest in pushing for equality and justice, much like out San Diego Loyals midfielder Collin Martin. As the Blade reported last week, Martin has joined Common Goal, a partnership with Adidas and soccer players around the world working toward ending gender inequality, combatting HIV/AIDS and other causes. He’s also pledged 1% of his salary to Play Proud, a project aimed at improving LGBTQ+ inclusion in soccer.

“Within the past two years, I’ve really leaned into advocacy and fighting for things that I believe in,” Hiltz told the Blade. “That has been really fulfilling when I have been injured or when COVID happened and I couldn’t race.” 

Hiltz organized her own event for its second year this summer, a race in which all the proceeds benefited the Trevor Project

“I put on a Pride 5k and that was so fun,” they said. “Whether I had a good or bad performance, the highlight of every race this summer has been meeting and connecting with members of the Pride 5k family from across the country. They can always so quickly put everything into perspective. This community seriously means the world to me.”

The Nikki Hiltz Pride 5K on July 17 in Mission Bay, San Diego, raised $42,270 for the Trevor Project, the largest national nonprofit dedicated to crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth. 

“I think that’s something I want to continue to do when my running career is over. I love running and I love the community and I love everyone that calls themself a runner.”

Next up for Hiltz is to train for the Olympics. The next Summer Games are scheduled to be held in Paris in 2024, followed by Los Angeles in 2028. But they told the Blade that at age 26, they know they’re not getting any younger. 

“Professional middle distance runners usually retire early 30s-ish, 30 to 33, or they switch events and move up to the 5 or 10K or marathon event. But I think for me, you kind of go through Olympic cycles. So I think, if I were to retire, it would be in 2024 or 2028. And I think when I get to 2024, I’m going to reassess. ‘Am I still happy doing this? Do I still love it?’ And if it’s anything less than, ‘Yes!’ Then I think it’ll be time to retire.”

For now, Hiltz is focused on celebrating the end of the 2021 season with their girlfriend, collegiate runner Emma Gee, a graduate student at Temple University and the first out LGBTQ athlete at Brigham Young University. 

“I can’t think of anyone better who has been more supportive throughout this whole journey,” said Hiltz.

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The New Balance 5th Avenue Mile 2021

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Out Soccer player & teammates promote inclusivity in San Diego

Collin Martin has staked out a new mission for himself to promote greater inclusion in his sport for LGBTQ people

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Collin Martin, (Center) with teammates Augustine Williams, Charlie Adams, Tumi Moshobane, Miguel Ibarra (Photo courtesy of the San Diego Loyals)

SAN DIEGO- On the last day of the 2020 season gathered around their coach, American soccer great Landon Donovan, the visibly angered players of the San Diego Loyals Major League Soccer team were ready to walk off the field that Autumn day. The reason was the homophobic slur that had been directed at their openly Out midfielder Collin Martin by a player on the opposing team.

ESPN reported what happened next; “The team was in agreement: Something needed to be done. They decided that if the offending player, Phoenix Rising‘s Junior Flemmings, wasn’t removed from the game — by the ref, his coach or of his own volition — they would walk off the field.”

The Loyals needed this game as a win to assure a slot in the second-tier of the upcoming championship playoffs and at the half-time mark San Diego was leading Phoenix 3-1. Martin had serious reservations about taking a hike over the homophobia telling ESPN in a later interview; “I just was like, ‘No, we really should play this game,’ because this is my nightmare. My sexuality having an impact on a soccer game? This is actually my nightmare.”

After approaching the Phoenix team’s head coach Rick Schantz who blew it off and allowed the offending player to play the second half of the game the Loyals followed through and walked off forfeiting the match and the coveted spot in the playoffs.

Since that game which propelled Martin into the harsh glare of publicity and garnered more fans, especially from the LGBTQ community for the team, Martin has staked out a new mission for himself to promote greater inclusion in his sport for LGBTQ people.

Loyals head coach Donovan, in an interview with ESPN, reflected on the moment last Fall that became a game changer for the normally taciturn midfielder.

“In the moment, [Martin hated the decision] and in probably the 24 hours after, he hated all the attention and what came from it,” Donovan said. “But I think he was smart enough to realize the platform that had been created. That this was a unique opportunity to really — I don’t say this lightly — move our society and the world forward in a positive way. I give him a lot of credit for taking all the uncomfortable attention that he didn’t want and dealing with it so that he could help a lot of other people.”

At the end of this past month of August, Martin joined Common Goal. The non-profit in partnership with athletic apparel giant Adidas and other football (soccer) players around the globe, is dedicated to creating a more thorough link between football players, managers, fans, organisations, brands, to join the global football community together on a team big enough and strong enough to take on the world’s toughest opponents from HIV/AIDS to gender inequality to youth unemployment.

The Loyal midfielder will pledge 1% of his annual salary towards Play Proud — a project creating inclusive environments within football for LGBTQ+ communities.

And for the incident that started it all? ESPN reported that “Flemmings was later suspended for six games by the league, and he denied using an anti-gay slur toward Martin. But in a November (2020) interview with the Advocate, Martin talked about the conversations the two shared in the aftermath of that incident: “We had a long talk, and he apologized. At first during the game and shortly after, he didn’t admit he said the slur, which was upsetting to me, but during our call, he admitted that the weeks following the incident were tough for him as well, and he said he was sorry.”

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Newsom signs legislation bolstering landmark college athletes bill

Newsom announced that he has signed legislation to accelerate implementation of California’s Fair Pay to Play Act

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Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that he has signed legislation by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) to accelerate implementation of California’s Fair Pay to Play Act, first-in-the-nation legislation signed by the Governor in 2019 to allow college student athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.

The law inspired a wave of states across the country to take similar action to empower student athletes. 

“California led the charge against the unjust power imbalance in college sports, launching a national movement and spurring long-overdue changes in this multibillion-dollar enterprise,” said Newsom. “I’m proud to build on our leadership with today’s legislation to expand and protect our college athletes’ rights to reap the rewards from their sacrifices and success. I thank Senator Skinner and Senator Bradford for their tireless work to advance this fundamental matter of fairness and equity.”

Under SB 26, the Fair Pay to Play Act will take effect on Sept. 1, 2021, ahead of the original January 2023 implementation date. This ensures that California students are protected under the Fair Pay to Play Act following new rule changes by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that allow colleges and universities to develop their own rules in states without name, image and likeness laws, or in states where laws are not yet in effect. SB 26 also expands the Fair Pay to Play Act to California Community Colleges and allows athletes to identify what school they attend as part of promotional materials.

Governor Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act in 2019 alongside authors Senator Skinner and Senator Bradford, as well as NBA legend LeBron James, UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi, WNBA star Diana Taurasi, former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and Rich Paul. SB 206 will allow all student athletes enrolled in public and private four-year colleges and universities in California to earn money from their name, image, or likeness. Student athletes will also be able to hire sports agents, and not lose their scholarships if they receive income for their work. The law includes safeguards to prevent college athletes from signing endorsement deals that conflict with their school’s deal when they are participating in official team activities.

For full text of the bill, visit: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.

Gavin Newsom signs California’s ‘Fair Pay to Play Act’ with LeBron James & Mav Carter | THE SHOP 2019

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