Nico Young of Northern Arizona is an out gay athlete who signed an endorsement deal with Adidas. | Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The decision by Adidas to sign champion runner and Olympic hopeful Nico Young to a Name, Image and Likeness deal is another sign that an athlete coming out as gay won’t be abandoned by sponsors.

In the 25 years that we have been publishing Outsports, a fear of losing sponsors was a reason given by athletes for not coming out as LGBTQ. That fear certainly was true at one time.

“Nobody said no, but nobody said yes either,” tennis star Martina Navratilova said about how sponsors abandoned her when she came out as gay in the 1980s. “I can’t say how much money I lost by being out, but it’s in millions, there’s no doubt about that.”

The same was true for Billie Jean King, who saw sponsors flee her after she was outed in 1981. It was a real and legitimate concern, but that’s not the case any more.

U.S. soccer player and LGBTQ icon Megan Rapinoe earned an estimated $7.5 million from endorsements, according to a Forbes article in 2023. Her sponsors included such brands as Google, Lego Group, Nike, Pfizer and Victoria’s Secret.

On the men’s side, out gay Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy has endorsements with Visa, Monster Energy Drink, Samsung, Deloitte, 24 Hour Fitness and Atomic, among others, Forbes reported. Figure skater Adam Rippon has had deals with Visa, Toyota and Ralph Lauren, while nonbinary Canadian soccer player Quinn is a Nike athlete.

We can now add Young to that list after his Adidas endorsement deal was announced Monday. Young has an excellent chance to make the U.S. Olympic team for the Paris Olympics and it’s something Adidas is betting on with its sponsorship.

Young is one of the few out college athletes I know of to get such a major deal and it’s another sign of growing societal acceptance of LGBTQ people in sports. There are clearly still obstacles to why more athletes don’t come out, but fear of not attracting sponsors should not be one of them.

Coming out is an intensely personal journey. Self-acceptance and perceived negative reactions of teammates are still the major reasons why more athletes tell me they were reluctant to come out. But for any elite athletes, like Young, there’s money to be made and being out won’t be a hindrance.

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