LGBT Athletes & Coaches: Here’s a Foundation that Has Your Interests in Mind

There’s a new funder on the scene in the realm of LBGT philanthropy and it’s all about empowering LGBT athletes, coaches, and sports leaders. The Sports Equality Foundation (SEF) just launched, but the efforts behind it have been going on for over five years. The group started out as the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, which focused on equality and anti-bullying efforts. With a new name and targeted focus, SEF will now make grants in four specific program areas.

"Sports Equality Foundation is refining its focus to support and guide athletes, coaches and sports leaders through the coming out experience and into new lives as role models to lead change," said Patrick Davis, co-chair of the foundation board. "We have heard from countless athletes and coaches that there is a powerful need for stronger support around the coming-out process in sports, and that coming out is what drives change. The foundation will fuel that process, and give those who may suffer from bullying role models to look up to. It's a natural evolution to solving the problem."

The four areas of grantmaking will be as follows:

  • Providing LGBT people vital resources as they prepare to come out
  • Supporting coming out publicly or privately through the sharing of their truth
  • Fostering role models for other LGBT people
  • Leading cultural progress

It’s always been challenging for athletes to come out because of their team expectations and high-profile status; however the love of sports is something that many people have in common. Sometimes all it takes is a little common ground to see eye to eye. The underlying hope is that sports might provide that common ground and reduce the strong presence of homophobia that still exists in the industry.

"The coming-out cycle advances itself and drives that broader cultural change,” said board co-chair Kathleen Hatch. "We have a deep belief in the incredible power of the individual and what coming out means in the sports world. If we change sports culture, we change popular culture."

Another interesting twist to this development is that the geographic focus will be expanding from the U.K., where Ben Cohen and StandUp are centered, and is spreading now to the U.S. The grantmaking program launches with an initial $100,000 commitment, which will be awarded to sports leaders who strive for inclusion and acceptance. The foundation has been building up its board of directors and advisory team with influential professionals who are everything from high school and college coaches to members of the LGBT nonprofit community.

At the time this article was written, the Sports Equality Foundation’s website was still pretty bare bones, but you can submit your email address to be informed about new updates. Questions can be directed to info@sportsequalityfoundation.com, and you can also follow the funder on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date about what the first grant cycle holds and how you can apply for a grant. SEF is based in Atlanta, Georgia.