Courtesy of Athlete Ally

Olympians discuss the role of LGBT allies

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NEW YORK – To the global soccer community, Heather O’Reilly was known by the nickname HAO (pronounced “hey-oh”). But to her teammates, she was affectionately called GAO (pronounced “gay-oh”) for her support of LGBT athletes.

O’Reilly, who is retired and married to husband Dave Werry, was recently honored by Athlete Ally for helping to create an LGBT-inclusive athletic environment for the U.S. women’s national soccer team.

“Athletes like Heather are exactly what we need,” said Lori Lindsey, a former teammate of O’Reilly, in an interview last Tuesday at Athlete Ally’s annual Action Awards in New York City. “You are starting to see more and more gay athletes come out of the closet to stand up and speak out, but really the biggest evolution is having straight allies to support and speak up for us.”

A record 53 out gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender athletes competed at the Rio Olympics, according to Outsports, up from 23 athletes at the London Games.

“It was a far more openly diverse Olympic Games than we’ve ever had,” said Greg Louganis, a five-time Olympic diving medalist. “I think it will continue to trend that way.”

53 athletes are a small fraction of the more than 11,000 athletes who competed in Rio. Athlete Ally sends bracelets and backpack patches to athletes who want to show their support of the LGBT community in the Olympic Village.

“In order to make [publically coming out] more welcoming, we need more people to be visible in their support of the LGBT community,” said Hudson Taylor, the Founder and Executive Director of Athlete Ally.

O’Reilly showed her support of LGBT community by participating in the EveryFan campaign, which highlighted the challenges LGBT fans face when attending a sporting event. The former University of North Carolina soccer player also spoke out against H.B. 2, North Carolina’s controversial state law that governs transgender bathroom access.

“I think I have the responsibility as a professional athlete to use my voice for things that I believe in,” said O’Reilly, a three-time Olympic gold medalist. “For me, treating people with respect and including everybody is a no brainer.”

Louganis speaks with fellow Olympians and encourages them to be vocal in their support of LGBT community.

“You may feel like you are stating the obvious,” Louganis said, “but a lot of times it helps for the obvious to be stated in an emphatic way.”

Star Olympians continue to highlight ESPN’s Body Issue

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ESPN the Magazine announced Tuesday a roster of 19 athletes for this year’s Body Issue, and 10 are Olympians. That’s the most Olympic athletes since 2012.

The list likely will grow to 11 with the coming announcement of the U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team, as World Cup veteran Christen Press will appear in the magazine. Paratriathlete Allysa Seely is also on ESPN’s roster, and she is set to make her Paralympic debut as her sport is included in the Games for the first time.

The Body Issue will appear online July 6 and hit newsstands two days later. It will be highlighted by basketball star Dwyane Wade, who competed in the 2004 and 2008 Games. He’d been asked to pose for the issue before, but finally agreed after seven years.

“It’s bigger than me showing my body off,” Wade said. “That’s not as important to me as telling a story of overcoming a fear. It hopefully gives someone confidence to really be their authentic self.”

Also from the basketball court will be Elena Delle Donne, who will make her Olympic debut in Rio this summer. Wrestler Adeline Gray will also appear in the magazine before making her Olympic debut.

Baseball will be represented by Jake Arrieta, who pitched and won bronze for Team USA at the 2008 Beijing Games, the sport’s last appearance in the Olympics.

Other current Olympians appearing in the Body Issue will be swimmer Nathan Adrian (three-time medalist from 2008 and ’12 Games), steeplechase runner Emma Coburn (2012 Olympics), fencer Nzingha Prescod (2012 Olympics), beach volleyball player April Ross (silver medalist in 2012), and boxer Claressa Shields (gold medalist in 2012).

Retired diver Greg Louganis will also appear as the issue’s oldest athlete. The 56-year-old won a silver medal in 1976, and then two gold medals at each of the 1984 and ’88 Olympics.

MORE: Olympians in 2015 Body Issue | 2014 Body Issue | 2013 Body Issue

Greg Louganis, Janet Evans, Edwin Moses to appear on Wheaties boxes

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U.S. Olympic champions Greg LouganisJanet Evans and Edwin Moses will appear on Wheaties boxes for the first time next month.

Louganis is most noteworthy, for there was a petition to put the four-time Olympic diving champion on the iconic cereal box following his 2015 documentary, “Back on Board.”

In the film, Louganis said that he wasn’t as celebrated as other 1980s Olympic champions.

“Never got a Wheaties box,” Louganis said in the film. “Their response was that I didn’t fit their wholesome demographics or whatever. Basically, being gay, or being rumored that I was gay.”

Louganis, who swept the platform and springboard titles in 1984 and 1988, retired after the Seoul Olympics and came out publicly as gay and HIV positive in the mid-1990s.

Evans also earned four gold medals while swimming in three Olympics in 1988, 1992 and 1996.

Moses, winner of 122 straight 400m hurdles races from 1977 to 1987, won the 1976 and 1984 Olympic titles and was an Olympic teammate of Louganis and Evans in 1988.

Below are images of the boxes to come out in May along with comments from each athlete, via General Mills:

VIDEO: Janet Evans relives 1996 Olympic torch handoff to Ali

Greg Louganis

Louganis: “It’s so iconic, everybody looks at the Wheaties box and it’s such an honor. I can’t wait to see Janet’s and Edwin’s boxes too. I’m excited for them as much as myself. What great company to be in. Edwin’s always been a hero to me. It’s such an honor to be in this group.”

Janet Evans

Evans: “I think getting the honor now actually means more. I think when you’re competing and you’re young, you kind of just take it for granted that of course if you win a gold medal you might have the incredible honor of being on a Wheaties box. To even be listed with the incredible athletes that have been on the Wheaties box, and to be a part of this great legacy … for me to be on a Wheaties box with these incredible legends that have already graced the front of your boxes. It’s truly an honor and I honestly can’t think of anything that makes me more excited. I’m really honored.”

Edwin Moses

Moses: “I was very impressed, because I know it’s a very prestigious honor to be on the box of Wheaties. Several icons in track and field, and people that I know, have been on the box – starting with Bruce Jenner in 1976 – so it’s quite an honor to be included among that subset of athletes.”