Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy is everywhere in the 100-day lead-up to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
- There’s Kenworthy on NBC’s “Today” show modeling the Ralph Lauren Opening Ceremonies uniform.
- There he is as an official Olympics athlete spokesman for United Airlines.
- There he is about to be one of the profiled athletes in Proctor & Gamble’s TV ads called “Love Over Bias.”
- There he is talking to Esquire about being an openly gay athlete and encouraging other LGBT people to come out.
This is all in addition to deals he has with Visa, Toyota, Deloitte, 24 Hour Fitness, Monster Energy, Atomic skis and Smith goggles.
Kenworthy came out as gay after winning a silver medal at the 2014 Games and is demolishing the old idea that such a move would kill an athlete’s sponsorship deals.
In his case, coming out has distinguished Kenworthy from hundreds of other Winter Olympic hopefuls. He is that rarest of species — an out gay male American Olympian (there were none at the 2016 Rio Games). In addition, his story is authentic and perfect for marketing someone who overcame obstacles. None of this happens had he stayed closeted.
What I appreciate about Kenworthy is his willingness to embrace being gay, knowing it’s an important part of his story. What he told Esquire should be heeded by other gay athletes who are still closeted:
“All I can really say is to encourage anybody who's in the closet to come out, and congratulate anyone who has. I know that sports is a really scary place to find the courage to do that because it is so hetero-dominated, but there's no correlation between sexuality and sports performance and capability, and the more out people that we have in sports doing well, the more we can break down stigmas and barriers and stereotypes, and the more accepting it will be for future generations.”