Sam Phillips wears a Pride pin while accepting one of his two All-American honors at the NCAA men's gymnastics championships. | Meg Ross

University of Nebraska gymnast Sam Phillips completed a successful season on the mat by earning two All-Americans honors at the NCAA Division I championships. And he did it all as an out gay athlete by sporting a Pride pin on his Cornhuskers gear all weekend.

“I represent [the LGBTQ community] by just being myself on the competition floor, but to actually have the pin and show the colors I thought would be that much more substantial and important,” Phillips told Outsports.

“It was important for people to actually see me rep the colors and put a firm stamp on my support and claim to the LGBTQ community. It was a way to get visibility for the community on the competition floor and officially in the eyes of the NCAA men’s gymnastics competitors and viewers.”

Phillips is the only out LGBTQ men’s college gymnast we know of at the NCAAs and the sport has not produced many out elite gymnasts, despite its popularity with gay men. For example, at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, there were no out male athletes in artistic gymnastics (what Phillips competes in) and one in trampoline. Phillips, who came out in 2023, is determined to show that visibility is important.

Nebraska’s men’s gymnastics All-Americans, left to right: Asher Cohen, Zac Tiderman, Taylor Christopulos, Sam Phillips, Cooper Giles. Photo by Meg Ross

Visibility is enhanced when athletes are successful, and that’s where Phillips has shined. At the NCAA’s, he won two All-American honors by placing seventh on high bar and eighth in the all-around competition. An athlete gets All-American honors by finishing in the top eight of a specialty. Phillips was joined by four other Nebraska gymnasts in winning All-American honors: Asher Cohen, Zac Tiderman, Taylor Christopulos and Cooper Giles.

When Phillips came out in a campus interview, he said, “I am the only out male athlete at Nebraska, and it’s lonely and isolating at times. But I think back to what if younger me saw me? How secure and hopeful he would be in himself if he saw an out male athlete being so involved and having a prominent role in all athletics and athletic-related departments.”

As an out athlete, Phillips has blossomed on the mat and in the classroom as an All-Academic Big Ten honoree. His wearing the Pride pin is keeping in character of someone making a difference.