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YouTube launches huge #ProudToPlay campaign honoring LGBT athletes for Gay Pride

Athletes like Jason Collins, John Amaechi and Kobe Bryant lend their voices to make sports the centerpiece of YouTube's Gay Pride campaign.

Kobe Bryant lends his voice to the fight against homophobia and transphobia in sports.
Kobe Bryant lends his voice to the fight against homophobia and transphobia in sports.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

YouTube, in conjunction with parent company Google, today launched their 2014 Gay Pride campaign #ProudToPlay, making sports the singular focus of the company's Gay Pride efforts. The campaign consists of an original video with various LGBT athletes and allies and will highlight the work of various organizations working to end anti-LGBT bias in sports, including You Can Play and other members of the LGBT Sports Coalition.

They are also encouraging YouTubers to create videos about LGBT sports issues that YouTube will highlight over the next month. The YouTube pride logo, featuring a rainbow soccer ball, will be on every YouTube page.

This is huge. It's a powerful statement by the top two trafficked Web sites in the world and continues to build momentum for 2014 as the year of the gay athlete. Last year they made "love" the theme of their Pride efforts. This year, it's sports. That says a lot about where LGBT sports issues are in our mainstream culture, and the role sports now play in the LGBT community.

Below you can find an edited version of YouTube's blog post about the campaign:

YouTube is #ProudToPlay: Celebrating equality for all athletes

From the Sochi Olympics to the recent NFL draft, this year has seen a growing, global conversation about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the world of sports. Many LGBT athletes are sharing their stories on YouTube, and the support they're getting from teammates and fans has helped others find the courage to do the same.

Sports bring together people from all backgrounds and experiences through a shared passion, and YouTube shares that spirit of connecting diverse communities to make a difference. In celebration of the upcoming World Cup in Brazil and LGBT Pride month, we're honoring the LGBT athletes, their supporters, as well as the YouTube Creators who stand up for diversity in sports and elsewhere-all of whom help create an equal and inclusive playing field for everyone. Inspired by #ProudToLove last year, we're calling this effort #ProudToPlay.

We applaud the courage and openness of athletes at all levels who have come out and admire their teammates, friends, families, and supporters who are all proving that it doesn't matter who you are or who you love-what matters is that you put forward your best effort. We stand with our community in the belief that youth everywhere should all have the same opportunities to grow up and pursue their dreams and passions, on or off the field.

Join the conversation by uploading a video talking about what being #ProudToPlay means to you. Over the course of Pride month, we'll share a collection of videos about the LGBT community and sports on the YouTube Spotlight Channel.

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Athletes that support #ProudToPlay include:

Jason Collins, NBA player for the Brooklyn Nets, said, "Proud to play means to me someone who is proud of all the things that makes them who they are, whether it be your race or religion or sexual orientation, heck...your height! It's important to be proud of who you are. As a professional athlete, we accept that we are role models. It's great that regardless of your sexual orientation, that the conversation was started and people started talking about being gay in professional sports. If you're straight, just continue to be supportive. And if you see someone being bullied, or hear language that's inappropriate, speak up and speak out. It's very important to have those allies out there who are being brave for some of us who aren't yet ready to be brave on our own."

Robbie Rogers, player for LA Galaxy, said, "As more people come forward and are proud of who they are, and compete and do well, I think that will really change everything. I'm proud to play because I know I'm helping people. I know that there is young gay men and women out there, athletes who now have someone they can look up to in the sports world."

Kobe Bryant, #ProudToPlay supporter and ally said, "Equality in sports has to be there for your team to be successful. It's these little building blocks that you learn through playing sports. The bravery of being yourself is really the anchor of it all. You have to be brave in your own convictions, you have to be brave about who you are and you have to be brave to step forward and step into the spotlight and declare to the rest of the world this is who I am."

John Amaechi, former NBA player, said, "I am proud to play because it is important for people to know that it is only the inclusion of the full spectrum of society that will make sport the truly unifying force it can be in the world. YouTube has always been a place where those without a voice in the mainstream could find a place to start a conversation. I know that the Proud to Play campaign can highlight the cause of those in the LGBT and straight ally communities who just want to be able to contribute to and seek enjoyment from sport."

Eliana Yankelev, track & field athlete at the University of Pennsylvania and member of GO! Athletes, said, "When I came out as a high schooler, there was no conversation about what it means to be an LGBTQ athlete: there were simply no role models and no public information for teenagers coming out in the athletic world. Coming out in college allowed me to create real relationships with my teammates - not ones based on secrecy, guilt, and shame. Coming out helped me to be stronger both emotionally as well as physically, and it encouraged me to get active on campus. These resources, on this type of platform, will affect way more young LGBTQ+ people than anyone could expect. I am #ProudToPlay."

Organizations including GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign, You Can Play, Laureus, and the LGBT Sports Coalition are supporting this campaign and work to promote equality.

"As athletes from across nations and leagues come out, sports fans throughout the world are embracing LGBT players and ejecting bias from the game," said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "GLAAD is thrilled to support Google and YouTube in this landmark initiative to help tackle stereotypes and build understanding."

Raymond Braun, YouTube Marketing manager said, "Sports bring together people from all backgrounds and experiences through a shared passion, and YouTube shares that spirit of connecting diverse communities to make a difference. In celebration of the upcoming games in Brazil and LGBT Pride month, we're honoring the LGBT athletes, their supporters, as well as the YouTube Creators who stand up for diversity in sports and elsewhere-all of whom help create an equal and inclusive playing field for everyone."