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Athlete Ally: Promoting LGBT Awareness in Sports

Photo courtesy of Athlete Ally. 

The Big Red women’s basketball team took on the Princeton Tigers last Friday evening for the first time this season while promoting Athlete Ally, a student organization promoting LGBT awareness and inclusivity in sports. The club, an international organization comprising of professional athlete allies as well as college groups, was promoting the club and mission publicly at a game for the first time this year.

On campus, the club boasts about 30 members mostly from women’s athletic teams — club and varsity — with the best representation from the basketball team. Spreading the word at games is a new initiative for the club, explained Julie Wushensky, a club representative. The club was also selling ally t-shirts for $15, with proceeds benefitting the Trevor Project. The Trevor Project, founded in 1998, focuses on suicide prevention in the LGBT community.

Athlete Ally’s efforts, together with the Cornell University Programming Board, to bring openly gay former NFL player Michael Sam to speak earlier last semester show Cornell’s commitment to increasing awareness and inclusion on campus. On the Cornell side, the team wore Ally t-shirts during warmups and on the bench, while Princeton joined in with rainbow LGBT pride socks.

BRSN also caught up with president of the Cornell chapter of Athlete Ally, senior basketball forward, Nicholle Aston.

According to Aston, Athlete Ally at Cornell was started by former men’s soccer player, Atticus DeProspo a few years ago and has grown since. Nationally, the movement began with Hudson Taylor, a professional wrestler who broke ground by wearing an equal human rights sticker on his headgear while competing.

At Cornell, the club consists of mainly athletes but has the support of the LGBT Resource Center and the athletic department. The Athlete Ally game was the first LGBT event sponsored by the athletic department in Cornell sports history. Each club meeting has a focus for discussion, whether it’s gender discrimination, realities for the LGBT community after the election, or focusing on spreading the word and educating the community.

The club also hosts a larger event to gain more attention each year. In previous years, Athlete Ally has hosted the likes of Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. women’s national team player, World Cup champion and member of the LGBT community. This year, Athlete Ally will be welcoming ESPN reporters Sarah Spain and Kate Fagan to campus. Spain graduated from Cornell about a decade ago and was a two-year member of the Women’s Track and Field team. Fagan played basketball at University of Colorado, Boulder where she came out as LGBT. Fagan wrote a book about her experience there.

In all, Athlete Ally is experiencing a growing presence on campus in large part to its outreach and the support of the athletic community.


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