The Boston Celtics recognized one of Outsports’ favorite athletes during their second annual Pride Night earlier this month. The Celtics honored openly gay strongman Rob Kearney as one of their “Heroes Among Us” for breaking barriers in the sports world and his advocacy work. Kearney came out as gay in 2014, becoming the first openly gay man to compete in a Strongman competition.

Now fully embracing his identity, Kearney refers to himself as the “World’s Strongest Gay.”

With more than 87,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter, Kearney uses his large following to spread messages of LGBTQ inclusion. His advocacy work is one of the reasons we selected him as our “Male Hero of the Year” in 2019. As we covered at the time, Kearney’s openness about his experience leads him to spread the gospel of inclusion, such as when the Massachusetts native spoke to a middle school in his home state at the end of last year.

“The biggest thing I want you all to realize is, you know, once you aren’t afraid to actually be yourself, that’s when you actually get to experience real happiness,” Kearney told students, via the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “For me, it’s when I got to experience real love, once I was finally able to break down all those walls and accept me for who I actually was, it completely changed my life and let me be able to talk to students like you about the things that I’ve done in this world.”

Kearney was his confident self at the T.D. Garden Feb. 7, sporting his trademark purple mohawk and posing with his husband, Joey Aleixo.

“At just 27 years old, Rob has already competed all over the world and holds records in multiple events,” the Celtics wrote in their press release. “But, what took the most strength was being the first openly gay professional to participate in Strong Man Competitions.”

After winning a strong man title last year, Kearney qualified for the 2020 Arnold Strongman Competition, which is the most prestigious event in his sport. He placed eighth.

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