Cleveland Browns fullback Johnny Stanton is one of the most vocal LGBTQ allies in the NFL. And he doesn’t care what anybody has to say about it.
Stanton spoke recently with News 5 Cleveland reporter Camryn Justice about his tireless LGBTQ advocacy. His passion stems from the experiences of his uncle, Olympic hopeful Patrick Stanton, who didn’t feel comfortable coming out as gay until after his athletic career was over.
His uncle’s story motivates Stanton every day to make the locker room a more inclusive place.
“I don’t want people to feel like they can’t be their genuine selves like they can’t live truly with who they are and have to hide that from the people who they’re closest with,” he said. “I’m extremely close to my teammates. I can’t imagine not being myself around them.”
Stanton was one of two NFL players — along with Carl Nassib — who supported the LGBTQ community with My Cause My Cleats last season, selecting Athlete Ally as the focus of his footwear.
Stanton told Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler he wants LGBTQ people to know he supports them.
“No one should feel unwelcome on the field or the court. If just one person being an ally can help them feel more comfortable, then I’m happy to be that person,” he said.
Stanton personifies the difference between offering LGBTQ people “support” opposed to mere “acceptance.” It’s nice when athletes say they would accept a gay teammate and not treat them differently. But actively supporting LGBTQ people can actually change the environment.
Stanton is similar to Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks, who talked recently about how Pride Night played a pivotal role in his contact negotiations. He didn’t want to play for a team that doesn’t embrace the LGBTQ community.
Athletes often talk about the fear they experience before coming out. Though our numbers show that LGBTQ athletes enjoy widespread acceptance from teammates, one can’t help but wonder how the landscape would be different if there were more athletes like Stanton and Hendriks.
Any LGBTQ player on the Browns, for example, wouldn’t have to guess where Stanton stands on LGBTQ equality.
He says his message is starting to spread throughout the locker room.
“The team is supportive of me being supportive of the community,” Stanton told News 5 Cleveland. “My teammates — a lot of them I’ve spoken to — are considering going to Pride next year.”
Stanton is Cleveland’s lead blocker out of the backfield, and also their leader when it comes to supporting LGBTQ Pride.