Collin Martin, a midfielder for Major League Soccer’s Minnesota United, publicly came out as gay on Friday, making him the only openly homosexual male athlete currently competing in a major American sports league.
According to a report from ESPN, Martin made the announcement on Twitter, explaining in a statement that a number of his teammates have long been aware of his sexual preference. He added that Friday night will be an important one for him, as Minnesota United will be celebrating Pride Night, and allowing him to announce his status as an openly gay MLS player in public. The team will also be wearing jerseys with rainbow numbers in their game against FC Dallas as part of the celebration.
“I have been out as a gay man for many years to my family and friends, and this includes my teammates,” Collin Martin’s statement read.
“I have played Major League Soccer for six seasons: four seasons with DC United and two seasons with Minnesota United. Today, I’m proud that my entire team and the management of Minnesota United know that I am gay.”
The 23-year-old Martin made his MLS debut in 2013 via DC United’s academy, but was very seldom used in four seasons with the team. He was then traded to Minnesota United for the 2017 season, and as ESPN noted, had recently been getting more exposure as he started three MLS games and two U.S. Open Cup games since last month.
Collin Martin isn’t the first male American soccer player to come out as gay, as he was preceded in 2013 by Robbie Rogers, who was then playing for Leeds United in Britain and had recently retired after a four-year stint with MLS’ Los Angeles Galaxy. As noted by The Guardian, Rogers came out about two decades after Justin Fashanu admitted his homosexuality and became the first openly gay British soccer player. Fashanu, who was allegedly at the receiving end of homophobic treatment from teammates and managers after he came out, died in 1998 at the age of 37 after hanging himself.
Aside from Collin Martin and Robbie Rogers, a number of male athletes playing in other sports came out as gay in recent years, including NBA center Jason Collins, who, at the time of his coming out in 2013, became the first openly gay active NBA player. That same year, WWE wrestler Darren Young came out in an interview with TMZ, and so did Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who was picked by the St. Louis Rams in the 2014 NFL Draft, but was released before he had a chance to play in the league.