Two straight tennis players have joined an organization that aims to end homophobia in the sports world. Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish united with Athlete Ally, becoming the first professional men’s tennis players to do so. They say they were inspired by NBA player Jason Collins’ coming out.
“Yesterday was an incredible day for athletes everywhere,” Roddick told Athlete Ally on Tuesday. “Jason Collins’ courage and leadership in coming out reminds me of how important it is for an athlete to be able to be true to him or herself. As an Athlete Ally, I want to support every athlete to feel comfortable and confident being themselves and to make sure that all people – players and fans alike – are welcome and included in tennis.”
Using “its status and influence to help stop anti-gay bullying by championing respect, camaraderie and inclusion in sports,” Athlete Ally is a national non-profit organization that combats homophobia in sports and raises awareness.
“Everybody deserves a shot at playing sports,” Fish told Athlete Ally. “It shouldn’t matter in the least if that person is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Building community through healthy and inclusive activities should be one of the main focuses behind athletics, and that isn’t possible if you exclude LGBT individuals, especially our youth.”
As a retired professional tennis player, Roddick ranked in the top 10 in the world, winning titles for the U.S. Open and Grand Slam Singles.
Fish ranked number 7 in the world in 2011, winning a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games and claiming 6 ATP titles.
“It’s people like Andy and Mardy who will help pave the way for LGBT athletes in tennis,” Athlete Ally Advisory Board Member Martina Navratilova said in a press release. “Though coming out is an intensely personal decision, with each new Athlete Ally that speaks out, an LGBT athlete could feel more comfortable coming out.”
As humanitarians, Fish established The Mardy Fish Foundation, which “promotes balanced, healthy lifestyles for youth in Florida.” Roddick launched the Andy Roddick Foundation in the hopes of inspiring “underserved youth through sports-based mentoring.”
“Tennis fans have applauded Andy and Mardy for years,” Athlete Ally Advisory Board Member and Tennis Channel Host Brett Haber said in a press release.
“They have been warriors on the court and inspirational figures for the battles they have fought off of it. Each is a tremendous humanitarian, and it’s only appropriate that these two leaders would be the first among men’s professional tennis to take such a stand.”
Athlete Ally “encourages athletes, coaches, parents, fans and other members of the sports community to respect all individuals involved in sports, regardless of perceived or actual sexual-orientation or gender identity or expression.”
“We’re seeing allies in football, men’s and women’s basketball, hockey, rugby, cricket, UFC, soccer and now I am proud to say tennis,” Athlete Ally Advisory Board Member Rennae Stubbs said. “All these sports are standing up for principles common to every sport on earth: respect, equality and acceptance.”
Roddick and Fish join Super Bowl Champion Brendon Ayanbadejo, Minnesota Vikings’ Chris Kluwe, Australian Rules Football player Brock McLean and MLS Player Omar Gonzalez as Athlete Ally ambassadors.
“As Athlete Ally advances the conversation of LGBT inclusion in athletics, it’s critical that we empower new voices and new sports,” Athlete Ally’s Founder and Executive Director Hudson Taylor said.
“It’s amazing to have our first Athlete Allies in professional men’s tennis, and particularly powerful for them to be two of the world’s most successful and admired players. We couldn’t be happier to have such remarkable athletes join our organization, and we look forward to continued leadership in men’s and women’s tennis.”