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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Athlete Ally opens new chapter at UC Davis

COURTESY OF ATHLETE ALLY

Organization aims to educate athletics community, end homophobia in sports

Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending homophobia and transphobia in sports as well as activating the athletic community to champion LGBTQ+ equality, recently added UC Davis as a new chapter to its organization. UC Davis is now part of a list including 35 campus chapters, 188 pro ambassadors, and over 24,000 people joining the Athlete Ally movement.

The organization was founded in 2011 by Hudson Taylor. Taylor, a former “new breed” of wrestler out of the University of Maryland, is a three-time All-American and was ranked No. 2 in the country going into his senior collegiate season, according to the Athlete Ally website.

“My sport has given me everything,” Taylor said. “I think that still in 2018 LGBTQ+ athletes are being denied those same opportunities, experiences and access and it’s a shame. If we are not trying to do something about it I think we are in part responsible for it.”

A theatre and drama major as well as a wrestler, Taylor witnessed friends come out and be accepted in the theater environment, while homophobic and sexist comments were uttered nonstop on the wrestling mat. In order to stand in support with the LGBTQ+ community, Taylor made a decision that ended up being a driving force in starting Athlete Ally.

“I was in a really unique position,” Taylor said. “I was the captain of my team so I had a lot of privilege and I had the platform. I started speaking out and did what I thought was a small gesture in wearing an LGBTQ+ sticker on my headgear and as a result of that I got 2,000 emails from closeted athletes. So that was sort of the moment of wow there is a real need and we can have a real impact if other athletes also speak out.”

Taylor initially had an idea to compile all of the e-mails sent to him and tell all of the stories of LGBTQ+ athletes, and wanted to create Athlete Ally as a platform to tell stories. Once he created the website, made a pledge for the organization and started touring around the country speaking at different colleges and universities, Athlete Ally quickly grew in support and infrastructure to become what it is today.

Today, Taylor believes that it is more important than ever to continue to speak out in colleges and universities about solving this issue. After he received an email asking him to come and speak at UC Davis, he knew that this was an opportunity to continue to advocate for Athlete Ally.

“We want to solve the problem and the only way we can do that is if our efforts are scaleable,” Taylor said. “Working in professional and collegiate sports you have massive governing bodies that if one thing changes, it has a huge ripple effect on the whole organization. It is really those athletes who are going to practice and class everyday who know first hand if it is an inclusive environment and what needs to change.”

After Taylor’s speech at UC Davis, junior forward Hailey Rittershofer, a member of the UC Davis soccer team and student athlete liaison of the LGBTQ+ center on campus, approached Taylor about opening a new chapter at UC Davis, which she now leads.

“For the [UC] Davis chapter, our goals are to foster inclusion in athletics and in the athletic community,” Rittershofer said. “We do that through education of our members to spread that education, social activities within the LGBTQ+ community and social events to bring different people together, both allies as well as people in the LGBTQ+ community.”

All students are welcome to join the UC Davis Athlete Ally chapter. The only  requirements are to attend one meeting and participate in one event. The schedule for this quarter’s chapter meetings are still being finalized, but meetings are expected to happen four times throughout the Fall 2018 quarter, with one big event held.

“This is a club where members and officers feel like family and it’s a club where people that are very diverse can get together and that are passionate about supporting the LGBTQ+ community,” Rittershofer said.

Rittershofer is proud to have a chapter for Athlete Ally at UC Davis, and believes that it is extremely important to continue to foster equality inside and outside of athletics.

“Whether you are an athlete and you are of a particular race or you have a particular gender or sexual orientation, it’s harder to be something more than just ‘the athlete’”, Rittershofer said. “I think it is especially important to me that Athlete Ally gives people with different intersections and orientations a chance to be themselves and get the most out of their [UC] Davis experience. I feel really blessed and thankful to be a part of this organization. It has been a big learning/growing experience and I hope I can run it as best as I possibly can to represent the Davis community.”

Anyone who wants to learn more about Athlete Ally can visit its website, and more information about the UC Davis chapter can be found on its Facebook page.

 

Written by: Ryan Bugsch — sports@theaggie.org

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