Seattle teams join Athlete Ally to promote LGBTQ equality

SEATTLE -- To kick off Pride Week in Seattle, the city's professional sports teams joined to show their support for LGBTQ equality.

Representatives of the Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders, Storm and Reign gathered in downtown Seattle on Tuesday for a news conference with Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization that seeks to foster inclusive sports communities.

Reign and U.S. women's soccer player Megan Rapinoe said the show of unity was gratifying to her personally as a gay athlete, but she also lauded what it meant for athletes who may not be open about their sexuality.

"I think it's incredibly important to make these steps and to show the athletes that might be in the closet that they are with support," Rapinoe said. "Being in such a progressive city, we take it for granted sometimes how wonderful and inclusive it is here. And it's definitely not that way around the country. I feel thankful to be a part of such a sports scene. This means the world to gay athletes, whether they are out or not."

I think it's incredibly important to make these steps and to show the athletes that might be in the closet that they are with support. Being in such a progressive city, we take it for granted sometimes how wonderful and inclusive it is here. And it's definitely not that way around the country.
Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe, on the importance of LGBTQ inclusivity in sports

Ginny Gilder, an owner of the Storm and an Olympic medalist in rowing, appreciated that both men's and women's franchises were represented. Among those present were Mariners majority owner John Stanton, Seahawks general counsel/vice president Ed Goines and Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer and defender Brad Evans.

"It marks an unprecedented effort where a city's entire professional sports roster stands together to champion LGBTQ inclusion and equality," said Hudson Taylor, executive director of Athlete Ally and a former collegiate wrestler. "We're witnessing the greatest expansion of athlete activism in history."

Evans said it's critical to have "educated" locker rooms where all players should feel welcomed.

Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin planned to be at Tuesday's event but had another commitment. Goines delivered a message from Baldwin, saying, "He'd like for you to focus on watching how our players embrace tough issues. And how we encourage that.

"I think it's the same with any diversity issue that's presented to us, including LGBTQ issues," Goines added. "Those will be embraced by us. We ask you to hold us accountable to that."

As for the often-asked question of when, for instance, a Major League Baseball player might announce he is gay during his career, Stanton said, "As owners, we have a responsibility and feel strongly a desire to have an open, inclusive and diverse environment.

"Ultimately, the decision to come out is an individual decision and not something that we can govern. I think there is a journey further to travel for baseball."

The Mariners are having a Pride night at Safeco Field on Thursday. Billy Bean, a former player who came out after his career was over and is an ambassador for inclusion for MLB, will be visiting the ballpark and talking with players.

The Sounders' Pride game is Wednesday, the Storm's is Friday and the Reign's is Saturday.

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