Athlete Ally has hit a home run with the two latest pro-sports additions to their roster. Major League Soccer players A.J. DeLaGarza from the Los Angeles Galaxy, and FC Dallas' Chris Seitz, have both joined the non-profit group's fight to build an inclusive environment in sports.
Their connection to Athlete Ally shows the power of those formative college years, Hudson Taylor told Outsports:
AJ and Chris both are alumni of the University of Maryland, my alma matter. Maryland has been incredibly supportive of Athlete Ally, going so far as to name me alumni of the year in 2012 for the School of Undergraduate Studies because of the organization. As such, I wanted to be sure to engage fellow Terps and was able to connect with AJ and Chris separately. They both immediately responded and were enthusiastic to sign onto the cause.
What's so powerful about these two athletes is that we haven't heard from them before. But they are not shy talking about the importance of support athletes of any sexual orientation. Both athletes specifically mentioned sexual orientation or gay athletes in their first official Athlete Ally statements.
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Here's Athlete Ally's full press release:
Athlete Ally, a leading organization working to raise awareness and end homophobia in sports, is proud to announce the first professional soccer players to join the organization in the Los Angeles Galaxy's A.J. DeLaGarza and FC Dallas' Chris Seitz.
DeLaGarza enjoyed a stellar career at the University of Maryland including two NCAA championships in 2005 and 2008 before being drafted to L.A. in 2009. Since then, he's shown off his skills as a defender for the Galaxy, which won back-to-back MLS Cups in 2011 and 2012. Going into his 5th season, DeLaGarza has become a proven leader.
"Diversity is a part of life, and my family emphasized that value when I was growing up. For this reason and many others, I feel as I should show my support for LGBT players and fans," DeLaGarza said. "Talent isn't contingent upon your sexual orientation. Sports are about dedication and hard work; and no one should feel ashamed to be who they are.
Seitz, a standout in his own right and college teammate of DeLaGarza's at Maryland, was named College Cup Defensive MVP in 2005 and ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2006. He was the first goalkeeper drafted during the 2007 MLS SuperDraft and later helped lead his team to the MLS Cup and Eastern Conference Championship in 2009. Chris also received the 2012 MLS Humanitarian of the Year Award after missing part of the season so he could donate bone marrow to a stranger with cancer.
"As an athlete, I've learned first hand what leadership means and seen how small actions can make a huge difference," said Seitz. "By joining Athlete Ally, I hope my voice will reach gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth and remind them that they are welcomed and respected in sports."
"As our first professional soccer players to join Athlete Ally, and following the brave choice of fellow pro soccer player Robbie Rogers to come out, A.J. and Chris' voices as allies supporting LGBT teammates and fans are so important. Their commitment demonstrates how MLS is a leader among professional sports leagues in the LGBT rights movement," says Hudson Taylor, Executive Director of Athlete Ally.
Sean Avery, the former standout New York Ranger and Athlete Ally Board Member said of the first soccer players coming on board, "Soccer has seen several high-profile gay players, most notably Megan Rapinoe on the women's side and recently Robbie Rogers for the men. Hopefully, A.J. and Chris's support of Athlete Ally will inspire more straight allies to come forward, and perhaps even a closeted player to come out while he or she is still active in the sport."
As Athlete Allies, DeLaGarza and Seitz joins NBA star Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), Brendon Ayanbadejo (Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens,) Chris Kluwe (Minnesota Vikings), Scott Fujita (Cleveland Browns), Connor Barwin (Houston Texans), basketball player Dan Grunfeld, and four Australians in rugby star David Pocock, Australian Rules Football player Brock McLean, World-Champion cricketer Alex Blackwell, and rugby standout James Hilterbrand along with scores of college athletes who have already signed on. DeLaGarza and Seitz will act as liaisons between the organization and their teams, help promote Athlete Ally's mission to end homophobia in sports by speaking out to their teams, league and fan bases, and encouraging their colleagues to join in the effort.