How do two thighlight-worthy male athletes make themselves even hotter? By campaigning against homophobia in sports, even though they aren't gay.
This weekend, the New York Times profiled Ben Cohen, an English rugby star, and Hudson Taylor, a former all-American college wrestler who coaches at Columbia, who both recently started their own foundations to combat homophobic bullying in sports. There campaigns are unique, as there are no active American athletes on a male team who've come out, and few sports stars who even speak out in favor of gay rights.
Both men say they're regularly questioned about why they've taken up this cause. Cohen recently retired from a successfully rugby career at 32, and is married with 3-year-old twin daughters. Taylor, who drew national attention by wearing a Human Rights Campaign sticker on his headgear while wrestling at the University of Maryland, plans to marry his longtime girlfriend in the fall. They say that question is part of the reason it's necessary to be vocal allies. "In a lot of people's minds, it's not a straight person's issue," says Taylor. "That's an obstacle that has to be overcome."
Cohen became drawn to the issue after attracting a following among gay men. He explains, "They probably see me as a sex object, I suppose." He began hearing personal accounts online from fans who were being harassed for their sexuality, and says, "It brings me to bloody tears." He recently founded the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation and has been spreading his message via an "Acceptance Tour" with events in England and the U.S.
Taylor decided to found his organization, Athlete Ally, after witnessing homophobic behavior in college. While taking theater classes where gay students were accepted, he noticed that back in the locker rooms fellow athletes regularly threw around gay slurs. He put off plans to attend law school and now speaks about the issue at colleges, asking athletes to sign a pledge to stop homophobia in sports.
It's great that so many celebrities have spoken out in favor of gay rights, particularly in the last year. Like Taylor suggests in the video above, an even bigger step would be to have more supposed role models on major sports teams join the effort to stop homophobic bullying.