The Trevor Project is expanding its reach into the world of athletics. The world’s largest prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people announced Monday it’s partnering with the sportswear company PUMA to support LGBTQ-inclusive environments in athletic facilities and promote positive mental health outcomes in young LGBTQ athletes.
PUMA will donate $1 million to The Trevor Project over a span of three years. The money will be spent on research, mental health training and digital outreach.
“The Trevor Project serves all LGBT young people, and many of them play sports,” The Trevor Project’s head of corporate development, Muneer Panjwani, told Outsports in a phone interview. “For us to not partner with this audience, and not give them the resources they need, would not be staying true to our mission.”
According to the National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 71 percent of LGBTQ youth reported discrimination due to either their sexual orientation or gender identity. And in the sports arena, the percentage is even larger. A 2015 study found 80 percent of all participants said they witnessed or experienced homophobic behavior in sports.
Panjwani says those harrowing statistics propelled The Trevor Project to directly reach young LGBTQ athletes.
“So many LGBT athletes have to either drop out or hide who they are because they don’t feel comfortable or supported,” he said. “It’s so important for us to create an atmosphere where people feel safe, and also to look at all of the ways the stakeholders in the athletic community — which includes coaches, parents, administrators, schools, and of course, peers — and see what each of them can do to create an environment where people can just come with their skills and play a sport without worrying about who they are.”
The three-year partnership will include multiple phases. Throughout the first year, The Trevor Project will spend time researching homophobia in sports and developing methods on how to address the problem. Armed with data and research, the organization will then develop a curriculum to help coaches, athletes and administrators create inclusive environments for young LGBTQ athletes. The lessons will likely include training for coaches on how to become allies and also how to handle emotionally intervention.
In addition, The Trevor Project aims to use its immense digital resources to reach other communities in the athletic sphere.
The goal, Panjwani says, will be to provide young LGBTQ athletes with all of the resources they need to be open around their teammates and comfortable on the field.
“Our ultimate goal is that more and more people start to feel comfortable to come out,” he explained. “When there are more role models who are open and out and playing sports, it just gives other people the power and motivation to know they can play a sport and also come out and be themselves. So any time we see an athlete who comes out and is able to bravely share their stories, it has a very profound impact on young people, and creates a safe space for them to come out.”