To celebrate Pride Month and the FIFA World Cup in June, FOX Sports teamed up with Play Proud to share the stories of three remarkable young LGBTQ+ athletes who found support and community through the sport of soccer.
Play Proud is an initiative of Streetfootballworld, a global coalition of nearly 130 soccer-based nonprofits in 80 countries working to address social issues impacting youth, from homelessness to gender-based violence to gang influence. Play Proud aims specifically to make soccer more inclusive by helping coaches protect and empower their LGBTQ+ players to reach their full potential, both on and off the field.
FOX Sports helped broadcast this work by airing a mini video series multiple times during their coverage of the World Cup semi-finals and finals. The clips follow three LGBTQ+ soccer players—William, Melina, and Bella— as they share their stories of coming out in a challenging environment while finding a trusted support system in their soccer coaches and teammates. “Everyone deserves—no matter what you identify as, or who your partner is—at the end of the day, to go to a community and know that you’re loved, cared for, and supported,” concludes Bella in their video.
At a time when 73% of LGBTQ+ youth feel that the sports world is not a safe or welcoming environment, FOX Sports and Play Proud are changing the experience of those who believe their identities as LGBTQ+ and as athletes are diametrically opposed. “We believe you can be an out gay athlete,” says Streetfootballworld regional manager Lilli Barrett-O’Keefe. “For so many young LGBTQ youth, there is no safe space to be themselves and to be heard. We believe soccer can fill that void. Play Proud can save lives, literally.”