Sometimes it only takes one person to make a difference in the world of sports. Give the basketball to your best shooter and she’ll sink the game-winning bucket. Put the ball in your star running back’s hands and he’ll run into the end zone for a touchdown.
When Hudson Taylor started wrestling at the University of Maryland, he put a human rights sticker on his wrestling helmet as a symbol for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community. As a theatre major at UMD, Taylor began to witness the trials and tribulations of homophobic slurs and language. That was all the motivation he needed to make a difference.
Taylor realized that LGBT athletes didn’t have someone to speak out for them, so he decided to help. Taylor disregarded other athletes’ sexuality and expressed that it doesn’t matter what their sexual orientation is. He said if “you’re an athlete or my teammate, then I respect you.”
It was then Taylor launched Athlete Ally, an organization focused on ending homophobia and transphobia in sports by educating allies in the athletic community and empowering them to take a stand, according to http://www.athleteally.org. Two ambassadors of the foundation are NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe, both LGBT activists.
Pacific Lutheran University is hosting Taylor Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Olson Gymnasium. Junior Amy Wooten, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) president, is helping to promote the event by using various posters and social media to reach out to the Pacific Lutheran University community.
“By reaching out to other clubs and groups on campus, we are hoping to generate buzz and talk about Hudson Taylor and Athlete Ally,” Wooten said. “We will also be rolling out a new poster campaign either the week before Hudson or the week of his event that is focused on the topic of inclusion within our campus.”
The posters feature PLU athletes holding up posters stating, “Respect Matters,” “Culture Matters” or “Support Matters”.
Wooten first heard Taylor speak at the University of Washington Summit, which is “an interactive day for youth and collegiate sports coaches. Athletes and administrators focused on how to create safe spaces for all within sporting environments,” according to http://sites.education.washington.edu/uwcla/content/2013-center-summit-1.
“The UW Summit showed me how simple it is to make a difference on your campus by becoming an advocate for inclusion,” Wooten said. “It really all comes down to respect — respect for your teammates and respect for the sport you play. Students and athletes should all feel safe in their own environment.”
SAAC is funding Taylor’s expenses as a result of the Carol Sheffels Quigg Award for Excellence and Innovation, which is awarded to faculty, staff and students who demonstrate unusually inventive, original and creative approaches to advance the mission of the university, according to http://www.plu.edu.
“As a student athlete I understand the importance of inclusion, and we want others to embrace inclusion on campus as well. I believe that Hudson Taylor fosters a great message for why inclusion matters,” Wooten said. ◼︎