Don Garber has been the commissioner of Major League Soccer for 25 years, welcoming LGBTQ fans, gay players and Pride Month. | Adam Cairns-USA TODAY

Outsports has reached out to the commissioners of the Big Five pro sports leagues in America, asking them about LGBTQ inclusion and Pride Month. You can see answers from the commissioner of the NBA here. This is part of that series.

There is only one major men’s pro sports league in North America — or quite possibly the world — that has had more than one active gay athlete come out publicly. That’s Major League Soccer. Robbie Rogers, and then Collin Martin, have been out as gay men while playing in the league.

MLS commissioner Don Garber — who has run the league since 1999 — told Outsports in an exclusive Pride Month interview that he “absolutely” believes the league will embrace any gay and bi athletes who choose to come out in the future.

“We saw the positive response from our fans with Robbie Rogers and Collin Martin,” Garber told Outsports, “and we are committed to ensuring that any gay players feel welcomed and supported in MLS.”

Both players were reportedly supported by their teammates and clubs. The Los Angeles Galaxy traded the league’s leading scorer at the time — Mike Magee — shortly after Rogers came out publicly, to acquire the newly out gay athlete. The Galaxy and Rogers would go on to win the MLS Cup a year later.

Don Garber and MLS tackling homophobic language

It was a dozen years ago that MLS, under Garber’s leadership, handed down a three-game suspension to Houston Dynamo player Colin Clark, who admitted to — and apologized for — calling a ball boy a gay slur. It was a powerful moment and a line drawn in the sand by Garber and MLS.

One issue that has popped up sporadically for MLS over the years is the anti-gay “puto” chant, which demeans male goalkeepers with not-so-subtle suggestions. While Garber didn’t address this directly, he did speak to the connection the league builds with fan groups.

Those connections — as Outsports has reported with LAFC and their fan group The 3252 — are key to ending that chant.

“In the stands, we collaborate closely with clubs and supporters’ groups to engage and welcome LGBTQ+ communities to our game through Pride matches and other initiatives that emphasize everyone is welcome in MLS,” Garber said.

While the NHL has abandoned Pride-inspired rainbow jerseys on players for even warmups, MLS on the other hand has worked with Adidas to create a special Pride jersey that some players are wearing in warm-ups this season.

Garber is fully invested in visibility for the LGBTQ community in and around soccer and MLS.

“We understand the importance of representation and the powerful message it can send to a young player who saw Robbie or Collin playing in MLS. It tells young players that they can aspire to play in MLS and join a league where everyone belongs.”

Garber’s observation about representation is spot-on. The visibility of out LGBTQ people in sports is incredibly important, particularly for young athletes who may not otherwise have a role model who loves like they do.

Those out LGBTQ athletes provide that beacon of hope.

Garber said he wants to center the visibility and inclusion of people who have for too long not seen themselves in men’s professional soccer.

“My hope is that we can continue to increase representation from all underrepresented groups on our sidelines, in our front offices, and in leadership roles so that we can better reflect and serve all our fan communities across the league,” he said.

Outsports’ Pride Month series featuring LGBTQ-inclusion perspectives from commissioners of four of the Big Five American sports leagues continues on Thursday.