Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
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Twelve Minnesota United FC players, plus head coach Manny Lagos and assistant coach Carl Craig, have joined up with Athlete Ally as ambassadors for the group, which works to "raise awareness and end homophobia in sports." In addition, every player, coach, and staff member at the club has signed the group's pledge, which reads as follows:
I pledge to lead my athletic community to respect and welcome all persons, regardless of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Beginning right now, I will do my part to promote the best of athletics by making all players feel respected on and off the field.
United is the first team to support the group on a organization-wide basis - and for the moment, more than a third of the 30 athlete ambassadors are United players.
Team president Nick Rogers, who is on the group's advisory board, told the New York Times, "Athlete Ally is not advocating a viewpoint; it is just saying that on the field of play the only thing that matters is the competition. That resonated with the guys."
The players to sign on as ambassadors are player/coach Kevin Friedland, captain Kyle Altman, Pablo Campos, Etienne Barbara, Miguel Ibarra, Justin Davis, Brian Kallman, Simone Bracalello, Max Griffin, Connor Tobin, Travis Wall, and Kentaro Takada.
While the pledge of support seems self-evident, it remains true that the sport of soccer has had its issues. Just last night, San Jose forward Alan Gordon was caught on camera using an anti-gay slur, one for which he will be suspended by MLS, and in February former US Men's National Team midfielder Robbie Rogers walked away from soccer after coming out of the closet, saying that he was afraid of coming out at every club he'd been a part of.
Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings is also an ambassador for Athlete Ally, and Minnesota Wild players Cal Clutterbuck and Jason Pominville are among the local hockey players who have voiced support for the You Can Play project.