Featured in our 5th Annual Faces of Sports Issue!

Collin Martin has definitely made his mark on the 2018 year, particularly in major league sports. A Major League Soccer (MLS) player for the Minnesota United FC, Martin posted his coming out announcement on Twitter just before the team’s June 29 Pride Night game. His post included a picture of him wrapped in a Pride flag and a message of thanks for support as well as encouragement for other gay athletes to come out.

After Robbie Rogers retired from MLS in November 2017, there had been no other gay male athletes in any of the five U.S. professional major team sports. Martin has now filled Rogers’ unenviable position as the only gay male athlete in this important group willing to be open about his sexual orientation.

While Martin’s announcement was timed based on his team’s Pride Night celebration, it’s worth noting that it was one day following the 49th anniversary of the start of the Stonewall Riots. Despite all the progress (and some regress) made on LGBTQ+ rights since then, even in the last decade, there is still a lot of covert homophobia within sports that has made gay athletes less active and visible within professional sports. This makes Martin’s coming out announcement remarkable, even in 2018.

Granted, Martin’s coming out wasn’t exactly a big shock to his friends and teammates. In an interview with Outsports he talked about his time living in Washington D.C. when he played for D.C. United and started his coming out process by frequenting gay bars in D.C. He also started making gay friends and even found a boyfriend who helped him learn to accept and embrace himself.

Coming out to some of his teammates on D.C. United, Martin received a lot of positive responses that helped give him the confidence and support he needed to play his best and be himself. When he was traded to Minnesota he didn’t make a public announcement that he was gay. Instead he let it happen naturally – mentioning his boyfriend in casual conversation, bringing his boyfriend to team events, and just being generally visible and part of the team.

This way his teammates could take the time to learn about him and understand that Martin is gay without making a big deal about it, allowing him to become part of the team. Initially he didn’t think a big public announcement was as relevant as his teammates and close friends knew it was. But then Martin realized that coming out publicly could have a positive impact on the community and decided to make it happen. He decided Minnesota United FC’s “Pride Night” was the perfect opportunity to do it.

When the club gave out rainbow flags to its athletes to promote Pride Night, Martin decided to take his announcement a step further by having some professional photos done of him wearing the flag. He also took time to work with friends, Minnesota United and MLS to put a plan in place for his coming out, including several drafts and revisions to his tweet, making sure he had everything in place.

When his news aired it took off and was shared all around the world. In response to the news, Martin shared with Outsports, “I’m so grateful I’ve gotten to this point; I think I would have been very sad if I didn’t come out during my career.”

By Dirk Smith