clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Celebrating LGBTQ sports history: Out gay athlete trailblazers

Every day in October we’re looking back at the athletes, coaches and events that made LGBTQ sports history

Rugby League Test match - Eng v Aus
Ian Roberts of the Kangaroos in action during the first rugby league Test match between England and the Australian Kangaroos held at Wembley Stadium October 22, 1994 in Wembley, England.
Photo by Anton Want/Getty Images

Every day this month, we’re looking back at our pioneers, the mark they left on our community and on the sports world, plus landmark events and stories that show Courage Is Contagious. Today, a story by our Cyd Zeigler from June 13, 2018, looking back at the 20th century trailblazers Glenn Burke, Justin Fashanu and Ian Roberts.

Three out active gay athletes before 1999

These three men came out in their pro sports leagues before the turn of the millennium.

By Cyd Zeigler

Before many of the publicly out gay male athletes we recognize today, there were three male athletes who came out between the late ‘70s and mid ‘90s who helped blaze a trail for those who would come after them.

In the United States, Major League Baseball player Glenn Burke was out to his teammates with both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics before retiring from the sport.

Justin Fashanu came out publicly in England’s Premier League years before his career came to an end in a very sad suicide.

Professional rugby player Ian Roberts came out publicly in Australia in a culture that has trailed behind that of the United States in acceptance to gay athletes and issues like same-sex marriage.

All three of these men balked the trend and shared their true identities as gay men either with teammates and team management or publicly. All of them continued to have a career despite the public or powerful men in their sport knowing they were gay.

We’ll have another LGBTQ Sports history story tomorrow and every day through Oct. 31.