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Ben Cohen retires, launches StandUp Foundation to combat anti-gay bullying

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Ben Cohen has officially retired from professional rugby and is using the opportunity to launch his new foundation to combat anti-gay bullying, the StandUp Foundation. The group is based in Atlanta. He's in the middle of a U.S. tour to promote the initiative.

A full press release on the new organization is after the jump.

ATLANTA, May 20, 2011 -- Ben Cohen, MBE, today officially launched the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, Inc. and StandUpTM social-commerce brand to help fund it. The Foundation is believed to be the world’s first organization dedicated solely to the cause of anti-bullying, wherever and to whomever it occurs. Due to recent high-profile instances of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bullying,, the Foundation gives particular focus and attention to this community. The announcement was made in conjunction with the Atlanta kick-off of Mr. Cohen’s “Acceptance Tour 2011,” which will continue on to New York, Washington DC, and Seattle.

Mr. Cohen, a rugby World Cup champion and second in all time scoring for England, is one of the world’s greatest athletes. He is the first straight sports star to dedicate his philanthropic efforts for the benefit of LGBT people. Mr. Cohen, married and father of twin daughters, is widely considered a “gay icon” for his rugged good looks, long-standing LGBT advocacy, and more than 157,000 predominately gay friends on Facebook. Mr. Cohen’s cause is as personal as it is for his fans; his own father was brutally beaten to death in 2000.

“If people find me attractive and that helps them pay attention and hear my message of acceptance, then I am honored by it,” said Mr Cohen, chairman of the Foundation. “Every human being has the right to love and be loved, and I want to be a bridge between LGBT and straight communities to create a kinder world,” he said.

To help fund the Foundation and its work, Mr. Cohen also has created the StandUp social-commerce brand, managed and licensed by Ben Cohen USA, Inc., his commercial enterprise. Like (RED), focused on AIDS, or Livestrong, focused on cancer, the StandUp brand engages the consumer marketplace to fund social change. StandUp is the first social-commerce brand developed for the benefit of LGBT people and the anti-bullying cause. Its profits will be shared with the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation.

“The inbound calls from major US corporations, consumer packaged goods, and beverage brands interested in StandUp partnerships have been tremendous,” said Patrick T. Davis, president of Ben Cohen USA, Inc. “This is the right message and the right brand at the right moment in our culture. The anti-bullying platform is universal, and people will be able to support it in a number of ways, from donating to shopping” he said.

The Foundation will help coordinate and fund specific anti-bullying programs led by a variety of other groups. As part of the launch, Mr. Cohen announced the “StandUp Network” of partners in the United States. The StandUp Network in other countries will be announced later. The U.S. partners are:

The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, Inc and Ben Cohen USA, Inc. are both based in Atlanta. Mr. Cohen said, “Atlanta is now known as ‘the gayest city in America’ and has long been known as the ‘city too busy to hate’ due to its civil rights leadership. I can think of no better place to base our operations and make the differences we intend to make.