We’ve all heard homophobic trash talk on the field — whether it be someone referring to something as gay or even calling someone else a fag. One former Major League Lacrosse player has teamed up with a non-profit to help combat that.
Brett Hughes, who played for the New Jersey Pride, Los Angeles Riptide, Denver Outlaws and Ohio Machine before retiring from the MLL in 2013, has become a pro ally ambassador for Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization with the goal of ending homophobia and transphobia in sports. Athlete Ally uses pro ambassadors (current and former professional athletes) to help promote their mission by speaking out to peers, other athletes and fan bases.
“We owe it to the sports we love, respect and honor to stand up with whatever platform they provide to design a new future of acceptance and appreciation of all our differences,” said Hughes in a release from Athlete Ally. “Sports has allowed me to get to know so many different people that I have come to love for their differences on/off the field while enjoying this great common love on the field.”
For Hughes, the cause is close to his heart. With a younger brother who is gay and several gay friends he’s met through sports, he appreciates the need to eradicate homophobia and to create a welcoming environment for all.
“I think that this is not something that is unfamiliar to me day in and day out. [Becoming a pro ally] is just putting walls around something I already believe in,” said Hughes. “…It’s close to me as an athlete and it’s also close to me because it is part of my family.”
Hughes cited a simple hypothetical of somebody saying “that’s so gay” in practice as a need for further education, noting that people often don’t know the power of their words. He said they were words he may have used when he was younger (in what he called “undereducated” times), but has grown to learn that the impact of those words can create an unwelcoming environment for gay athletes — even if not intended in a hateful manner.
“It’s crazy to me that with something that’s given so much excitement and joy and opportunity (sports) has been menacing to others — whether it be hiding within a team or organization or being wronged by those in sports even if you aren’t part of a team,” he said.
As a pro ally, Hughes may take on speaking engagements or speak to the press. He says he will do whatever Athlete Ally might need him to do to help reach the lacrosse community and hopes — with the rate that information and knowledge can travel in today’s culture — that homophobia may soon be a thing of the past.
The subject of gay athletes has recently garnered a lot of media attention, much of it focused on Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted to the NFL, and Jason Collins, the first openly gay player to play in the NBA. However it was Major League Lacrosse that broke barriers in 2005 when the Boston Cannons drafted openly gay goaltender Andrew Goldstein (who went on to play for the Lizards), widely regarded as the first openly gay athlete to be drafted in any sport.
Hughes is the first men’s lacrosse player to become an Athlete Ally ambassador. Other pro allies include pro tennis player Andy Roddick, former Major League Baseball player/manager Yogi Berra, NFL player Donte Stallworth and MMA fighter Rashad Evans, among others.
In addition to his career in the MLL, Hughes was a two-time All-America and All-ACC selection while playing at the University of Virginia. In 2008, Hughes developed Lacrosse the Nations, a nonprofit that seeks to unify the lacrosse community to sustainably improve education and health while creating joy and opportunity for children in need. Hughes also co-founded Another Best Day as a content and retail site spreading “GOOD news”, travel stories and life hacks for those who believe every day is the pursuit of Another Best Day.