Once of the biggest trends within sports over the last couple of years is the confidence of those who are LGBT to actually come out and say they are. Although there has always been rampant speculation about athletes within every sport being a part of the LGBT community, it was always taboo to peg an athlete as part of that community without them verifying this to be the case. This is especially true of the major sports leagues like the NFL, NBA and MLB. Athletes within these leagues who have retired have said they had athletes on their teams which were part of the LGBT community, but were afraid to say so in public for the fear of the repercussions they would face. Those days are luckily starting to come to an end.
It has become a badge of honor for athletes to come out and declare that they are part of the LGBT community, and there have been a plethora of athletes over the last two years who have come out as part of the LGBT community. However, the media has only showcased a few of these cases and, a lot of times, their moment is only seen within this community.
Within this list, we are going to showcase 15 different athletes who have come out and officially joined the LGBT community, that you may not have heard about. We congratulate them for being open enough to come out!
15 Ashley Nee – Kayak Whitewater Slalom, USA
Ashley Nee was a participant in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Kayak Whitewater Slalom for the United States. Her Career highlights include being a 4-time U.S. Junior National Team Member, as well as becoming the National Champion in 2010. In 2013, at the World Cup, she finished 12th overall. When participating at the United States National Championships, in 2014 she finished 2nd and, in 2015, she had her breakthrough and finished 1st overall. At the Olympics, she and her United States team were first in the Canoe/Kayak Team Trials. Nee grew up in Darnestown, Maryland, where she went to high school. She stayed within the state of Maryland when going to college, as she chose to attend the University of Maryland.
14 George Morris – Equestrian Trainer
George Morris won a Silver Medal for the Unites States in Equestrian back in 1960 and has been the show jumping chef d’equipe for the United States from 2005-2013. At the beginning of 2016, Brazil offered him a role as their show jumping coach, a contract which lasted through the Rio Olympics. On top of that, he always works as the president for the United States Show Jumping Hall of Fame, showing the respect he garners in the sport. Morris has won a plethora of awards, including numerous National Cup wins, and helped train some of the biggest stars within this sport. Having never trained riders from a different country, Morris was excited for the opportunity to help riders of a different country, especially those in the host country of the Olympics.
Though he claims that many already knew he was gay, he 'officially' came out with the released of his autobiography, Unrelenting.
13 Rachele Bruni – Italian Swimmer
Rachele Bruni is an Italian Swimmer who was born in 1990. She races in long open water distance races and specializes in the 10K meter race. She has won a Silver and eight Gold medals at the European Open Water Championships, mostly at the 5K level. She has never been beaten at a 5K race at these championships, including the team relays. She made the jump to the 10K this year; where not only did she win Gold at the European Championships, but she finished with a Silver at the Rio games after it was determined another contestant pushed her in the water, and was disqualified. After the race, Bruni dedicated her Silver medal to her girlfriend, officially coming out in the process. It was a beautiful moment and we applaud her for it!
12 Jennifer Azzi – Women’s Basketball Head Coach University of San Francisco
Jennifer Azzi was a successful women’s college basketball player at Stanford, where she helped the Cardinal capture two different Pac-10 Championships back during the years of 1987–1990. In 1990, Azzi helped the Cardinal capture the Women’s National Championship. She was named to the First Team All-American in both 1989 and 1990, and received the Naismith award in 1990 as the best female college basketball player in NCAA. She also won the Pac-10 Women’s Basketball player of the year award in 1989 and 1990. In 1999, she was selected 5th overall in the WNBA draft by the Detroit Shock and was traded to San Antonio in 2000, where she played until she retired in 2004. In 2010, she became the head coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of San Francisco. Earlier this year, she came out as LGBT while introducing the president of the Golden State Warriors at an Anti-Defamation League’s Torch of Liberty award ceremony.
11 Rafaela Silva – Brazil Judo Champion
Rafaela Silva won the Gold Medal in the -57kg Judo competition at the Rio Games in 2016. She started practicing Judo when she was seven years old, as her parents enrolled her in Judo in order for her to stop getting into fights within the streets of Brazil. In 2011, she won her first medal at the World Judo Championships, by winning silver at this competition. At the World Judo Championships two years later, Silva became the first woman to ever win a Gold Medal for Brazil in a Judo championship. When she is not practicing her Judo, she is occupied as a graduation third sergeant for the Navy of Brazil and also works with the integration of the Center of Physical Education. After she won the Gold Medal, she came out, and spoke openly about her long time relationship with her girlfriend.
10 Anne Buijs – Volleyball Player, Netherlands
Anne Buijs has been a member of the Netherlands National Women’s Indoor Volleyball team since 2008 and has played for various clubs over the years. These clubs include playing in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and China and currently in Brazil. In 2015, she played in the European Championship with her National team,and was named as the Best outside Spiker of the entire Championship. Buijs is 24 years old and 6’3”, making her an ideal height for a top end outside hitter in Volleyball. At the Rio games in 2016, the Netherlands finished fourth overall, losing to China in the Semifinals and the United States in the Bronze Medal match. While at the games in Rio, it was discovered that Buijs is in fact a Lesbian and is currently in a relationship.
9 Stephanie Labbe – Women’s Soccer, Canada
Stephanie Labbe is a Goalkeeper for the Canadian National team, as well as playing for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, who joined this year. She played Goalkeeper in College at the University of Connecticut and became their starter in 2006, when she started in 20 of their 21 games. In 2008, she was named the Big East Goaltender of the Year. In the eight years since, she has played for numerous clubs, including a couple of teams in Sweden, and, for the 2016 Rio Olympics, was named as the starting Goalkeeper for the Canadian National Team, where her team won a Bronze Medal. She's currently in a relationship and we couldn't be happier for her!
8 Marleen van Iersel – Women’s Beach Volleyball, Netherlands
Marleen Van Iersel was born in the Northlands in 1988. She started playing beach volleyball at the young age of 13, skipping the indoor aspects of Volleyball to focus on the sand. In 2003, she was selected to join the exclusive Sourcy Volleybalschool. She played in numerous under-18 tournaments around the world, where she finished 5th in 2003 with her partner, Jennifer Waning. In 2004, she partnered with Margo Wittens and they finished 4th in the Under-18 Tournament. That same year, she and Wittens qualified in the Under-21 tournament and they finished 4th in that tournament as well. In 2005, she teamed up with Marloes Wesselink and they won the Dutch Under-20 tournament. Since this time, van Iersel has played on the FIVB tour and also participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics. It was discovered while at the Olympics that van Iersel is part of the LGBT community.
7 Spencer Wilton – Equestrian, Great Britain
Spencer Wilton was born in 1973 and raised in Suffolk, where he was a key member of the Suffolk Pony Club. He has represented Great Britain in numerous events, but realized soon enough that he would not be good enough to move on as a career, which is when he switched over to dressage. In 1999, Wilton won his first Dressage event and, in 2006, he busted out into the International scene. Since that time, he has worked as his craft and helped Great Britain take the Silver Medal at the 2016 Rio Games. The Rio Games were his first Olympic games and Wilton has stated he wants to make it to Tokyo in 2020 and help win Gold for his country. Wilton has fully embraced his role within the LGBT community and is becoming an ambassador for all of those within the community. Well done!
6 Kirsty Yallop – Soccer, New Zealand
Kirsty Yallop was born in 1986 in New Zealand and currently plays soccer for their National team, where she has played internationally since 2004. In 2006, she was the Captain of the U-20 team, where they lost to rivals Australia and Russia, before holding Brazil to a scoreless draw. She has played on each Olympic team since 2008 and played on the World Cup teams in 2011 and 2015. She was on the team which earned their first ever point on an international stage, when New Zealand tied Mexico 1-1. Since 2010, she has also played at the club level, including playing for clubs in New Zealand, Australia and Sweden, where she currently plays. It was discovered recently that Yallop is part of the LGBT community, as she's open about her relationship on Instagram.
5 Kelly Griffin – Rugby, USA
Kelly Griffin was born in Berkley, California, where she was also raised throughout her childhood. She started playing basketball and soccer from the young age of six, where she then continued to play basketball, including at her high school there in Berkley. In 2004, she chose UCLA as her college, where she then joined the Women’s Rugby team. During her time playing Rugby at UCLA, she was named to the All-American team in 2007 and 2008, and was also invited for the under-23 team in 2006 and 2007. After graduating, she moved back to Berkley, where she joined the Berkley All Blues Rugby Team. In 2012, she became one of the first 8 women Professional Rugby players within the United States, when she signed a contract with USA Rugby. She has been named the Captain of the team on numerous occasions, including for the team that played in Rio. She came out earlier this year.
4 Tyler Dunnington – Former Baseball Player
Tyler Dunnington was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 28th round of the 2014 draft. He was born and raised in Shelton, Washington and went to college at a variety of institutes, including Skagit Valley College, College of Southern Idaho and at Division II Colorado Mesa. In 2014, after being drafted by the Cardinals, he played for their Single A club, the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. However, in 2015, Dunnington abruptly quit baseball. Because he was still private about his orientation at the time, when he heard some teammates say they wanted to kill gay people, he was incredibly disheartened by this. He wrote a letter to Outsports, where he came out as gay, and apologized for not being able to use his platform to help others who are struggling with being gay. He is hoping to get into the management side of the game now and we wish him well in those pursuits.
3 Meghan O’Leary – Rowing, United States
Meghan O’Leary went to college at the University of Virginia, where she would often pass by the athletic department. The coach of the rowing team, Kevin Sauer, would often see her and tell her she had the perfect body for rowing. O’Leary played Volleyball and Softball in college, winning numerous All-Academic honors. However, it wasn’t until after O’Leary left the University where she started participating in rowing activities. The desire for Rowing came after she started working at ESPN, as she was looking for a new sports passion and found it. Five short years later, she was attempting to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. She also represented the United States in the 2016 Olympics in the Double Sculls and hopes to be able to bring an Olympic Medal home in 2020 from Tokyo.
2 Daniel Rodriguez – Mr. Spain (Body-Building)
Daniel Rodriguez became the first Body Builder in Spain to come out as gay and he came out days after winning a competition. He never talked about his sexuality before, as he didn’t see it as a reason he couldn’t win, although he was sure that others would point to it as a reason for him not to. He talked about how a homosexual can be just as masculine as a heterosexual and that he can still seduce women if he wanted to. He is adamant that he never lied about this sexuality, but because he was never asked, he didn’t have to dodge any questions about his sexuality during the competition. He wanted to wait to come out at what he felt was the right time and he is hoping he can use his platform as Mr. Spain to help advocate for others who are also LGBT within the Body Building community.
1 Elena Delle Donne – WNBA Player
Elena Delle Donne is an American Women’s Basketball player who currently plays in the WNBA for the Chicago Sky. She attended High School in Delaware, where she helped lead her team to three straight State Championships. She then went to the University of Connecticut and practiced there for two days before abruptly leaving. She went back to Delaware and enrolled at the University of Delaware and was a walk-on Volleyball player her freshman year. In 2010, she then joined their basketball team, where she was recognized as her Conference’s Freshman of the year, and Player of the Year. In 2013, she was selected 2nd overall by the Chicago Sky and got off to a quick start, finding immediate success among seasoned veterans. She was named the MVP of the WNBA in 2015. She announced her engagement to her girlfriend in August of 2016 within an issue of Vogue magazine.