This is a feature in Issue 22 of Sounders Monthly, Sounders FC’s original magazine. They are available for free at The NINETY, Soccer Celebration, GuestLink Services locations and Membership Central as well as the Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and South gates.
Let me start by making something perfectly clear: Everyone belongs in sports and sports belong to everyone.
I don’t want to bury the lede. I don’t want to be misunderstood. With Pride Month upon us, I want to be direct and upfront with you.
LGBTQ youth especially have every right as you and me to play and support and engage in the same games we both love. Anybody who says differently is an idiot and they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you can’t play soccer or football, or just because you’re a woman you can’t play football.
That mindset is nonsense, and frankly, it’s tired. That’s changed over the years and is continuing to change for the better, in part because of athlete allies who are taking a stand.
I’ll stop you right there. I know, this isn’t about me. As an ally, it’s never about me, but as someone with a platform, it’s up to me.
Jordan Morris (left) and Bryan Meredith at the 2018 Seattle Pride Parade | Jane Gershovich
As athletes, right or wrong, we are on a bit of a pedestal. People tend to look up to us, so it’s important to understand the value that our words have and to put a good message out to people. To make sure people understand that, especially in soccer, everybody is accepted.
In this world, sport or otherwise, everyone should be welcomed, no matter their differences.
Is that idealistic? Perhaps. But it’s a standard we need to aim for, and it starts with you.
All athletes have different causes and different things that mean something to them personally. I want to be a positive role model for my community and show people, young LGBTQ kids especially, that you’re perfectly OK being who you are.
While it’s important for athletes to speak out on issues that don’t affect us directly, it’s just as important for kids to see people like them competing alongside us.
It’s vital for kids to see former MLS player Robbie Rogers and current Minnesota United midfielder Collin Martin come out. They are pioneers, and their representation matters far more than anything I could do. I appreciate them being strong and coming out and hopefully blazing a path for other young kids.
Meredith carrying the Sounders flag at the 2018 Seattle Pride Parade | Jane Gershovich
Collin is the only openly gay player, not just in Major League Soccer, but in the five major American sports leagues. Over 3,000 professional athletes. And only one is openly gay. It’s Collin, and that’s it.
In the hyper-masculine world of professional sports, do you understand how groundbreaking that is? I need you to let that sink in. Go ahead. Seriously, I’ll wait.
It’s my job as a player to make sure that more athletes have the courage and confidence to be who they are and to make the locker room a safe and supportive space. To show my teammates that we’re in this together and I’m only judging them by their play on the field, not their identity off it.
I’m not here to tell you that I’m perfect either. But I am making a conscious effort to be better, and I expect you to as well. Not for me, but for the future Robbie Rogerses and Collin Martins.
And when they do come along, you best believe they’ll be welcomed.
Sounders FC Goalkeeper and Athlete Ally Ambassador