Editor's Note: Hudson Taylor is a former college wrestler and the founder of Athlete Ally. We've asked him for occasional updates on his group's progress. He filed this entry shortly after his trip to Bates College in Maine.
This month brought incredible momentum to Athlete Ally. I’ve visited schools throughout the East coast and spoken to thousands of students, including hundreds of student athletes and coaches, about the important principles of respect, leadership and inclusion in sports.
I have also introduced the Athlete Ally Pledge and Ambassador program to several campuses. On Thursday, May 12, 2011, Athlete Ally hosted the first ever campus-wide Athlete Ally Pledge signing event at Bates College. Entitled “Bates Allies Rally: Celebrating Our Differences,” the event concluded the college’s first Pride Festival and was sponsored by the Bates Athletic Department and OUTfront, a student-run LGBT justice and support group. Athlete Ally worked directly with the Athletic Director, who brought me to the campus and made our Pledge a fundamental part of this event.
The event included my kick-off address, a panel discussion entitled “Respect for All Individuals” and a barbeque on the school quad. Like the students, coaches and administrators at Marist and Amherst Colleges and the other schools that I’ve recently addressed, the Bates community was thrilled to cultivate and empower its allies. Hundreds of student-athletes signed the Athlete Ally Pledge, adding to the hundreds of Bates students who had already signed our Pledge. I was also very inspired by the program’s panel presenters. I enjoyed feeling part of the campus and witnessing the community unify for this cause. I was able to wear a Bates t-shirt to better join in the camaraderie – also a great souvenir.
There were over 200 people who signed before the event and atleast 200 who signed during and after. Right now - I'd say the Bates count is likely 500. I won't know until the athletic director sends me the stats.
The only folks I know of who attended who did not sign the pledge were folks whose religions prevent them from signing any pledge (e.g. Quakers). I'm almost positive that every team was represented at the event and signed the pledge. Many coaches approached me with thanks and support including the Men's basketball coach, the swiming and diving coach and several administrators.
Athletic director Kevin McHugh was so incredibly helpful and excited about this event. He made this issue a major priority and brought me to campus. It was really wonderful to host the event in conjunction with the Athletic Department. Also, there was an awesome alumna who spoke about her transition after graduation. She was a skier and former coach at the college (before her transition). Her presentation during our panel discussion was rich with emotional and personal experience - which are invaluable at these events.
I hope to continue to develop the Athlete Ally Pledge as much as possible. I envision the Pledge as a tool through which folks can commit to equality and respect and communicate that commitment others. I want athletes and parents who visit our website to be able to locate allied sports teams and organizations with the click of a button and through a range of search criteria. This Pledge is about empowering those who want to stand up as allies and those who want to find their allies in the sports community. These two goals go hand-in-hand.
With thousands of signers and upcoming events, we’re off to a tremendous start. I can’t express how grateful I am to those who welcome me and support the organization. The work can’t be done without open arms and vocal support. So many thanks to Outsports for helping spread the word!