(This story was published in 2007).

Many times athletes run away from an association with gay people but not English rugby player Ben Cohen. He embraces his gay fans, so much so that he is throwing a party for them next spring.

Cohen, 29, who helped England win rugby’s World Cup in 2003, told Outsports through his representative about his plans. “Ben is currently in the middle of his testimonial year celebrating the last 10 years of his rugby career. He understands that a high proportion of his fans are gay and to thank them for their constant loyalty through good and bad times he is planning a gay night celebration in London in March. Full details will be announced later this year.”

Cohen has also launched his 2008 calendar, which his rep touted to us by calling it “very sexy, shower pix and all so I thought you might like a little preview!”

Cohen’s website is not bashful about showing off his best assets and features several shots of him shirtless. Cohen, who is married and whose wife was expecting twins, says that he “enjoys his boy’s toys, his latest project being to learn to fly a helicopter, swapping the two wheels of his Triumph motorcycle, his previous hobby, for the tycoon approach of rotor blades.”

Cohen’s approach to his gay fans may be in part shrewd marketing from a photogenic athlete, but more power to him. He is clearly comfortable enough with himself and appreciative of all his fans. You can add Cohen to the list of good guys in sports.