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A Decade of Heroes: Here are ‘The Outsports 20’ (plus 5 more)

Outsports chose stars from across the world of LGBTQ sports who had an impact on the 2010s. One emerged as the Outsports Person of the Decade.

EDITOR’S NOTE: MMA trailblazer Fallon Fox reached out to managing editor Dawn Ennis and Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler this week, to ask why trans women like her were conspicuously absent from this list. It was more than an oversight, it was a mistake. While Cyd and his fellow co-founder Jim Buzinski were involved in the selection of our heroes, the responsibility for this mistake falls squarely on Dawn’s shoulders. She spoke with Fallon about it Friday during an interview for this week’s episode of the Outsports podcast, The Trans Sporter Room.

While the list of 20 is not changing, a notation regarding Fallon Fox has been made later in this story to acknowledge the error, which we regret, along with the bestowing of a belated honor that should have been awarded to Fallon from the very beginning.

ORIGINAL REPORT, Dec. 31, 2019: They are athletes, coaches, heroes all: The Outsports 20. Twenty LGBTQ people who made an impact on the world by exemplifying our motto: “Courage is contagious.”

Why choose 20? Why not 3, 5, 10, 100? For one thing, Outsports celebrated its 20th birthday in November, and as the calendar flips from “19” to “20,” marking a decade destined to be known as “the ‘20s,” it appears the number 20 carries some special significance right now.

Also, when co-founders Cyd Zeigler and Jim Buzinski and managing editor Dawn Ennis put their heads together to consider who they would choose as the out LGBTQ stars of the 2010s, the list — depending on the person — ranged from 3 to 25 to 50.

So 20 it is.

As for the criteria, Outsports considered the person’s on-field performance and/or their impact in being an out LGBTQ person in sports.

First: one person emerged as the unanimous choice — a “no-brainer” — for the top award.

Outsports Person of the Decade: MEGAN RAPINOE

Massachusetts Conference For Women 2019
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 12: Two-time World Cup Champion, and co-captain of the US Women’s National Team Megan Rapinoe speaks on stage during Massachusetts Conference For Women 2019 at Boston Convention Center on December 12, 2019 in Boston, Mass.
Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Massachusetts Conference for Women 2019

Rapinoe was also the unanimous choice for Outsports Person of the Year. Not only did she lead Team USA to a back to back Women’s World Cup, she has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, for equal pay, for transgender rights and for our youth. She is a role model, a leader, and a lightning rod for the enemies of equality and individuality. Megan Rapinoe is the Outsports Person of the Decade 2010-2019.

Now, the other 19 honorees of the decade, according to their league, sport, or impact:

  1. National Basketball Association: JASON COLLINS, first male American athlete to come out in a Big 4 sport while active.
  2. National Football League: MICHAEL SAM, first out football player to be drafted by an NFL team, first out CFL player.
  3. Women’s National Basketball Association: BRITTNEY GRINER, NCAA and WNBA champion, six-time WNBA All-Star, Olympic gold medalist.
  4. Men’s Soccer: ROBBIE ROGERS, winner of the MLS cup and first male American athlete to come out in a Big 5 sport while active.
  5. Women’s Soccer: ABBY WAMBACH, winner of an Olympic gold medal and the Women’s World Cup for USWNT.
  6. Men’s Olympic Diving: TOM DALEY, winner of two Olympic bronze medals and gold medal in the 2017 Diving World Championships.
  7. Women’s Track and Field: CASTER SEMENYA, winner of two Olympic gold medals in the 800m.
  8. Men’s Olympic Figure Skating: ERIC RADFORD of Canada is winner of three Olympic medals.
  9. Women’s Mixed Martial Arts: AMANDA NUNES of Brazil is reigning champion of the women’s bantamweight and featherweight divisions. She was the first woman to become a two-division UFC champion.
  10. Men’s Olympic Skiing: GUS KENWORTHY, silver medalist for the U.S., now training to compete for Great Britain.
  11. Women’s Olympic Speed Skating: IREEN WÜST of the Netherlands, winner of nine Olympic medals.
  12. Women’s Olympic Boxing: NICOLA ADAMS won unprecedented back-to-back gold medals in her sport.
  13. Women’s Olympic Basketball: SEIMONE AUGUSTUS, four-time WNBA champ, six-time all-star and three-time Olympic gold medalist.
  14. Men’s Duathlon/Triathlon: CHRIS MOSIER, now training for the Olympic Qualifiers in race walking.
  15. Men’s Olympic Equestrian: CARL HESTER, two-time Olympic medalist in dressage for Great Britain.
  16. Women’s Olympic Field Hockey (TIE): CARLIEN DIRKSE VAN DEN HEUVEL and MAARTJE PAUMEN, gold medalists from the Netherlands.
  17. High School Wrestling: MACK BEGGS, a member of the men’s college wrestling team at Life University.
  18. Coaching: KATIE SOWERS, assistant coach of the NFL 49ers.
  19. Inclusion Executive: BILLY BEAN of MLB.

UPDATE: While we’re sure there are many more heroes who could have earned a spot in our Outsports 20 list, we realized far too late that one woman’s name remains conspicuously absent:

Fallon Fox.

Of all the trans women athletes who could or perhaps should have been included in our final list of 20, the first Mixed Martial Arts fighter to come out as transgender endured brutal. unfair attacks, overwhelming criticism and outright discrimination tops them all for bravery, persistence and her inspiring effort to compete according to the rules. She did so in spite of transphobia, racism and hate. Honoring Fallon with this belated award for her contributions in the 2010-2019 decade does not do enough to correct the mistake of not naming any trans women athletes to our list — Mosier and Beggs, two transgender men, were the only trans athletes we selected — but it’s been our experience that the best response to a mistake is to own it, and if it’s within our power, to try to correct it.

We attempt to do so by naming FALLON FOX the first recipient of the Outsports Award for Bravery, for showing courage in the face of hate, for holding her head high when faced with blatant transphobia and outright discrimination, and for her persistence inside and outside the ring. She deserves better than a belated award, especially since she made the cut before the list was finalized. We are grateful for the reminder that we can and must do better by our transgender women athletes. End of Update

There are four more people to honor, all of whom inspired us by overcoming obstacles, moved us by changing perspectives in their coming out, and blazed trails for others to follow in the decade 2010-2019.

The Outsports Inspiration Award goes to ELENA DELLE DONNE, WNBA champion who played despite three herniated discs in her back, six-time All-Star, winner of gold medals in the 2018 FIBA World Cup, 2016 Olympics, and 2011 World University Games. She is also a dedicated advocate for her disabled sister, passing up millions of dollars in overseas play just to be by her side, and since 2014, has been a Special Olympics Global Ambassador.

The Outsports Coming Out Award goes to CAITLYN JENNER, winner of the Olympic decathlon in 1976, recipient of the ESPYs Arthur Ashe Award in 2015, and a transgender woman whose coming out story remains the most well-known of this decade.

And finally, the Outsports Trailblazer Award will be shared by DALE SCOTT, the first out MLB umpire who devoted 30 years of his life to baseball, and RYAN O’CALLAGHAN, one of the 13 gay or bisexual players to come out in the NFL’s 100-year history, author of a best-selling memoir and head of a charitable foundation that supports young LGBTQ athletes.

These five honorees, when added to the list we’ve dubbed The Outsports 20, means there are actually 25 heroes from the decade 2010 to 2019. So they’re the Outsports 20 (plus 5 more). So it is written. So shall it be remembered... when 2029 rolls around.

If you’re interested in knowing the other 25 names under consideration for the decade, visit Outsports on Facebook for the complete list. Happy New Year!