In men's major league sports — the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and MLS — there's just one openly gay athlete right now: Minnesota United midfielder Collin Martin.
Martin came out publicly to his fans on social media last Friday. MPR News guest host Phil Picardi spoke with him about what the experience has been like.
Comments have been edited for clarity and length.
You've been out to friends, family and your team for a while now, but you decided to make an official announcement last week. Why was that important to you?
It was important because I think it was time. I think it was a natural progression for me. I had been out for a while, obviously, with my friends and my family and eventually my teammates for really the past two years, and I just thought the next step was to tell the public. And I think the toughest part for me was going out on social media and putting it out there, but I thought that to really affect the rest of the people that I wanted to, I needed to make that next step.
And what has been the reaction from the public? Is it the reaction that you were expecting?
Yeah, honestly there was no way I was going to really understand how big of a reaction it was going to be. I mean, it was overwhelmingly positive, and people have reached out from all over the world, really.
My dad was in Peru actually when the news broke, and the next day, he sent me a picture of me in the local Peruvian newspaper in Lima. And I've been getting messages from people really everywhere, and it's been positive. People need stories they can relate to, need stories that push the public to think differently, and I know a lot of cultures surrounding soccer and in other countries, I think they needed this too in certain ways, from what it sounds like. So it was positive and it was something I definitely — I didn't know I was going to get this reaction, honestly.
Why do you think there are so few out athletes in men's major league sports right now?
I'm not sure. Maybe a lot of athletes that thought that the one or two or three guys before them that have come out — the Robbie Rogers of the world, the Jason Collins — have already kind of broken that barrier. But the reality of it is that there's still progress to be made. And I know there's a lot more athletes out there, so to be honest, it's kind of strange. And it's not like you see a lot of guys retiring and then they're coming out right away, either.
It's weird, and I think at least in the five major league sports and on the men's side, there has to be a couple of us out there for sure. But maybe — I think people have trouble kind of putting themselves out there, I guess, while they're playing professionally. And they enjoy just keeping that side of them private, which is totally understandable. But I think there's still a lot of progress to be made, so I think it's just important to be visible, and important to show the world who you are.
Is it important that teammates, fans know about our personal preferences, our sexuality?
I think it's important, yeah. I think it is. A lot of the points I've been trying to make is that we need to give our colleagues, our teammates, our coaches a chance, really. You know, I think in terms of my experience, I've only had a positive one. My teammates have supported me wholeheartedly. And I think the stigma around locker rooms and maybe just the culture of men being tough on other men in terms of their personal lives, I think we need to break those barriers and give people more chances.
Alright. Collin Martin, thank you for joining us this morning.
Appreciate it, thanks for having me.