Kevin Maxen wanted just three things when he came out publicly in July.
First, the Jacksonville Jaguars strength coach wanted to live his life openly with his partner, Nick. As other male coaches brought their wives and girlfriends to team events, he wanted to do the same without fear or pointed fingers.
Second, he wanted to show other LGBTQ people across the NFL that, yes, the culture of the most popular sports league in America had changed significantly, and the acceptance of gay and bi people had grown tremendously.
Third, he wanted to do his job to the best of his ability. He wanted to put aside the stories in his head about having a male partner and focus on helping the Jaguars make it to the Super Bowl.
With an interview published on Outsports, and with the support of team owner Shad Khan and others in the Jaguars organization and across the NFL, Maxen did all of those things.
For his courage to share his true self in a space where no male coach had before, Kevin Maxen is Outsports’ 2023 Person of the Year.
Maxen said he was both proud and humbled by the acknowledgement. And, like a good team player, he pointed to his Jaguars organization.
“It is extremely important to celebrate this organization,” he told Outsports. “Everyone within the Jaguars — starting with Mr Kahn, Mr Baalke, and Coach Pederson — has not only shown their support and acceptance but have done something much more profound and meaningful.
“The culture in this organization is like no other. It is like a family, where each individual is valued, respected and encouraged not just by how they identify but by their character and their contribution to the goal of the team.
“For me that is beyond anything I can ever do or offer.”
Courage is, by definition, the opposite of fearlessness.
While fearlessness is acting in the absence of fear, courage is acting in the face of fear.
Maxen showed incredible courage this year. While he had quietly come out to a handful of people in and around the Jaguars organization and the NFL, he knew that becoming the first publicly out male coach in major American pro sports had some semblance of risk.
Yet this summer he simply couldn’t continue to keep his private life in the shadows, particularly when so many of the straight players and coaches in Jacksonville brought their families to team events.
“I realized I have the right and responsibility to love and be loved,” Maxen told Outsports at the time. “Sharing this will hopefully give someone else the strength to accept their own life and take control of their own story.”
So he took the leap that no male coach had taken before him, coming out publicly in the NFL.
Since coming out publicly, Maxen has received an outpouring of support, both publicly and privately. He’s also seen some messages that demonstrate either a lack of support or indifference. Most notably, he told Outsports, are the “Who cares?” messages that reflect a not-so-veiled homophobia, representing a hope that LGBTQ people will just shut up and stay in the closet.
While Maxen rejects the premise that no one cares if LGBTQ people come out — he knows first-hand that he’s having an impact just being out — he also recognizes that the most important part of him, for the NFL and the Jaguars, is that he’s the best strength coach he can be.
“What matters is that I am a great strength coach, and even more so that I am a great person,” he said. “And that is what’s valued in this organization.”
People across the NFL have publicly agreed with Maxen’s focus on his work.
“For someone whose job it is to help the Jaguars get stronger, Kevin’s own strength, character and authenticity inspire us all,” said Jonathan Beane, NFL Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. “We want all the people in our league to be true to themselves and each other.”
In the 10 years Outsports has awarded a Person Of The Year, someone from the NFL has won half of these awards.
While Maxen has embraced his role as a trailblazer for the LGBTQ community in sports, Maxen is also singularly committed to one goal: helping the Jaguars make the NFL Playoffs and earn a spot in the Super Bowl.
From his first conversation with Outsports, that was central to his coming out. It’s why he’s done virtually no media interviews and has instead focused on his job. With the Jaguars now in a three-way tie atop the AFC South — holding a division-record tiebreaker over the Texans and Colts — Maxen and the rest of the Jacksonville staff are as focused as ever.
As Maxen and the Jaguars make a push toward this season’s NFL Playoffs, we’re thrilled to recognize him with our Person Of The Year honor.
Previous Outsports Person Of The Year honorees:
2022: Brittney Griner
2021: Carl Nassib
2020: Katie Sowers
2019: Megan Rapinoe
2018: Adam Rippon
2017: Ryan O’Callaghan
2016: Chris Mosier
2015: Dalton Maldonado
2014: Michael Sam