In a room full of college athletes, an image of a wrestling match flashes up on a screen. “I used to rip people’s arms off,” says Hudson Taylor, a three-time All-American wrestler for the University of Maryland at College Park.
But Mr. Taylor, who graduated in 2010 with his team’s all-time pin record, isn’t here at Virginia Commonwealth University to tell players about his wrestling prowess. He’s just trying to connect with them before getting to the tough stuff: a talk on how they should treat gay teammates.
“If we want a guy who can play and play well,” he says, “it doesn’t matter what he looks like, where he comes from, or who he loves.”
A 6-foot, 200-pound straight man with cauliflower ear speaking out about what it’s like to be gay in college sports is an unlikely prospect. But two years ago, after taking a job as an assistant wrestling coach at Columbia University, Mr. Taylor started the country’s first nonprofit organization for straight supporters of gay athletes, called Athlete Ally. So far it has attracted 13,000 people, including college and professional athletes from a variety of sports—football, tennis, ultimate fighting—who’ve pledged to try to end homophobia in sports. Mr. Taylor just helped write the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s first-ever handbook on how to support gay and lesbian teammates, and he helps train NBA rookies on the subject. Athlete Ally has catapulted him into the media spotlight, with several TV appearances in April when the Washington Wizards player Jason Collins became the first athlete in a major American sport to come out publicly. <Read more.>