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Sports Equality Foundation launches to support LGBT people coming out & being out in sports

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U.S. shift for Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation focuses on people coming out in sports to drive cultural progress; Billy Bean, Howard Bragman, Jason Collins, Christina Kahrl, Conner Mertens and Brian Sims to advise board.

The Sports Equality Foundation has announced its launch today, focusing on providing LGBT people in sports with the tools to accelerate the coming-out process for athletes, coaches and sports executives. It's the new name and focus for what was previously the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation. The organization is on Facebook and Twitter.

You can find out more about the Foundation in this feature article from The Advocate, and also this piece at USA Today. Also check out this Huffington Post piece on the new Foundation by board member Anthony Nicodemo.

Here's the press release announcing the newly organized foundation:

ATLANTA, January 20, 2016 - Sports Equality Foundation launched today, focused on empowering LGBT athletes, coaches and sports leaders as they come out and work for inclusion and acceptance across sports at all levels. Sports Equality Foundation and its focus on LGBT people in sports grows out of five years of equality and anti-bullying work that started as the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, Inc., a registered 501c3 non-profit organization. Sports Equality Foundation is the organization's new name in the United States.

"Sports Equality Foundation is refining its focus to support and guide athletes, coaches and sports leaders through the coming out experience and into new lives as role models to lead change," said Patrick Davis, co-chair of the foundation board. Davis also co-founded and launched StandUp with Cohen. "We have heard from countless athletes and coaches that there is a powerful need for stronger support around the coming-out process in sports, and that coming out is what drives change. The foundation will fuel that process, and give those who may suffer from bullying role models to look up to. It's a natural evolution to solving the problem."

The focus of the grant-making foundation will drive four core areas of work that affect the cyclical process of coming out in sports: 1) providing LGBT people needed resources as they prepare to come out; 2) coming out publicly or privately through the sharing of their truth; 3) becoming a role model for other LGBT people; and 4) leading cultural progress.

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"Sports is an important key to unlocking hearts and minds in our shifting culture," said board co-chair Kathleen Hatch, past president of NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation. "The coming-out cycle advances itself and drives that broader cultural change. We have a deep belief in the incredible power of the individual and what coming out means in the sports world. If we change sports culture, we change popular culture."

The foundation launches with a $100,000 commitment from the board to support the sports leaders who will shape an inclusive future for all sports. In addition to Davis and Hatch, other board members include: Alison Doerfler, executive director, Hands On Network; Anthony Nicodemo, out basketball coach, Saunders High School; Kirk Walker, out softball coach, UCLA; Cyd Zeigler, co-founder, Outsports. The foundation's board will be strengthened with advisory members including Billy Bean, Howard Bragman, Jason Collins, Christina Kahrl, Conner Mertens and Brian Sims.

Ben Cohen and StandUp will continue to focus on vital anti-bullying work in the United Kingdom. "We are so thankful for the inspiration and vision Ben provided. With five years of growth, we are all confident that focusing efforts where most needed in the U.S. and the U.K. will be the best way to evolve sports, change culture and address bullying," said Davis.

For more information on Sports Equality Foundation, visit www.sportsequalityfoundation.com or follow the organization on Facebook or Twitter.