By Ken Reed

We’ve read quite a bit the last year about Jason Collins becoming the first openly gay basketball player on an NBA roster and Michael Sam being the first openly gay football player drafted by an NFL team. Those were both inspiring stories of courage and the desire to be true to one’s self.

A less well-known — but just as inspiring — story is that of former Nebraska kicker Eric Lueshen. Lueshen was an openly gay kicker for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers a decade ago. He was bullied and harassed by more than a few teammates.

But fortunately, he was able to become good friends with a couple teammates early on during his stay on the Lincoln campus. Gradually, he was able to win over more and more teammates, who grew to appreciate his courage and authenticity.

It’s a great read and I encourage you to take the time to go through Lueshen’s full account of his years with a major college football program in a very conservative state. It was, of course, a much less open-minded era.

As an advocate for civil rights, social justice, and equal opportunity in sports, I think the biggest takeaway from Lueshen’s story was the importance he placed on straight allies.

“The more straight allies we have standing up for us, the stronger our movement for equal rights becomes,” writes Lueshen.

That’s why organizations like You Can Play and Athlete Ally are so important. Both organizations place a strong emphasis on the importance of straight allies in the march toward a SportsWorld of equality.

For more, see League of Fans’ piece LGBT Athletes Still Facing Harassment and Discrimination.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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