Cornell University

September 12 2013

Allies for Athletes

Cornell chapter to improve respect in sports started by DeProspo '15

The first Cornell Athlete Ally meeting begins at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in Bartels Hall's Kaplan Room.

"We're trying to break down barriers and show that LGBT individuals can be anyone and anywhere," said chapter founder Atticus DeProspo '15.

"You have to start locally -- small scale -- and spread from there the message of tolerance, respect and acceptance for all people."

"I've been getting lots of positive feedback from Cornell teams, as well as people in the Cornell community more broadly."

All are welcome to join Athlete Ally meetings, he said. More information is available by contacting DeProspo at awd39@cornell.edu.

"It's not just student athletes, it's anyone who supports the mission and values of Athlete Ally, and wants to help change sports culture to be more respectful," the Cornell Men's Soccer player said in an interview.

Since posting his personal story on the Athlete Ally website, DeProspo said he has received and given support.

"I've gotten a lot of emails from strangers, talking about their own struggles, and from parents who suspect that their child might be gay."

"They are happy to see that we're working to change sports culture and know that their child can be gay and if they want to play sports, they'll be safe," he said.

"It's about creating a safe environment for people to be honest about who they are. The focus is on recognizing the current culture, and working to change it to be more accepting."

"We are trying to help young people who are struggling with their identities accept themselves. Just because they don't fit a certain mold or stereotype, doesn't mean they can't be who they are. People shouldn't have to give up on their dreams because of one facet of their personality."

Robbie Rogers, who plays Major League Soccer, inspired DeProspo to come out as a gay student-athlete to friends and family this spring.

"It was a bigger deal for me than it was for most of the people in my life," DeProspo said. "The hardest part of my journey was accepting myself."

Athletes like Rogers, DeProspo said, "are sources of inspiration, because as professional athletes, they have a lot to lose -- they don't know how others will react."

"Rogers' example gave me the final push I needed to 'play it forward,' as we say in Athlete Ally, and help others accept themselves, as well."

"Hopefully, we will create a space that people can gravitate to if they're not receiving that support elsewhere," he said.

ILR Assistant Professor Beth Livingston is the faculty adviser for Cornell's Athlete Ally group. She is also on the advisory board for the national organization.

"She's been very supportive and passionate about Athlete Ally because a lot of her a lot of her research overlaps with issues Athlete Ally wants to address in the sports community."

Livingston is helping the group identify the current culture in the sports environment and "aspects of it that are not tolerant, like homophobic terms used in locker rooms," DeProspo said.

"She's helping us show people how to really be allies, and how to foster a more positive culture in the team environment."

"The biggest thing is to not participate in the elements of sports culture that are homophobic. It's important to take a stand, not stand idly by as these terms are used. We need to put an end to intolerance."

The Cornell Men's Soccer team has been very supportive, DeProspo said.

"I feel completely comfortable around my teammates, and I know that they have my back."

"They are allies and that creates better chemistry within the team because everyone is being open and honest and feels safe in their own skin, which leads to better performance on the field."

DeProspo is confident Athlete Ally will help broaden respect. "I think the people that are crazy enough to think they can actually change the world, can."

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