Homosexuality is still regarded as somewhat of a taboo in the sports world, but the most famous gay athletes have actively fought against stereotypes and discrimination for the past decades. While in some industries, like the film or music business, promote openness regarding sexual orientation, the athletic world has always been a little more narrow minded in this regard. In fact, in many sport leagues, like the NFL or NBA, it’s still vastly unaccepted to be gay or bisexual and an astounding amount of players have been forced to live an incognito love life in order to maintain their popularity and contracts.
Although athletes fall under the top 6 most respected professions, which we listed in a previous article, the stigma regarding their partners remains active. However, the men and women on this list have opened up about their sexuality, in order to encourage and support the LGBT legal rights movement, and be role models to teenagers and young adults struggling with their identity. So, without further ado, these are the most famous gay athletes.
6. Michael Sam
Michael Sam caught the NFL’s eye in 2013 as the linebacker for the Missouri Tigers and was drafted in 2014 due to his superior skills on the field. However, the football player drew even more attention to him after coming out to his college teammates, who were widely supportive of his sexual orientation. As the first openly gay man in the NFL, Sam is considered somewhat of a pioneer and one of the bravest voices in the league, which has traditionally been unsupportive of homosexuals.
5. Jason Collins
After playing for six of the NBA’s biggest teams and 12 years in the league, Jason Collins wrote a column for Sports Illustrated, announcing that he was gay. The center player is now the first openly gay man in the NBA and regularly attends the gay pride parade, thereby supporting the LGBT community and encouraging other athletes to come out of the closet.
4. Orlando Cruz
One of the problems with stereotypes regarding the LGBT community is that people assume that certain physical or character traits are associated with sexual orientation. However, Orlando Cruz might just be the perfect counter-example for this cliché. As the first professional boxer to come out as gay, Cruz showed the world that you can be the number one featherweight boxer in the world, represent your country (Puerto Rico, in his case) in the Olympics, and still live your life as a proud gay man.
3. Michele Van Gorp
When Michele Van Gorp publicly announced that she was a lesbian in 2004, she took on the pressure and honour of becoming the first homosexual WNBA player. However, her adherence to the LGBT community didn’t affect her career whatsoever: as the first Duke player to ever be recruited for the WNBA, Van Gorp enjoyed her success on the Minnesota Lynx team, and is now the director of recruiting operations for Duke’s Blue Devils.
2. Glenn Burke
One of the pioneers amongst the most famous gay athletes, Glenn Burke lived out his homosexuality in the 70’s and 80’s. As a center-fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the baseball player never failed to shine with his athletic skills, but it was his open lifestyle that also caught the public’s eye. He would oftentimes have his lovers pick him up from practice or invite them to his games, and fortunately, his teammates were always supportive of his choices. However, Burke fell victim to AIDS and passed away from the illness in 1995.
1. Megan Rapinoe
This lady has stunned the world with her soccer skills, becoming one of the best-known female players ever. She’s part of the U.S. women’s national team, France’s Olympique Lyonnais club, and the Seattle Reign Football Club, and her courage isn’t only displayed on the field. The midfielder has always been openly gay and never made a secret of her sexuality, thereby encouraging other men and women to embrace their identity, instead of hiding it. Due to her openness and success, she’s certainly one of the most famous gay athletes in the world.