Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally, is using his non-profit sports organization to educate players at one of the highest possible levels — in the NBA.
After partnering with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, both organizations announced recently that the NBA is the first major sports league to take up Athlete Ally on its offer to train professional athletes. Hudson is no stranger to the sports world as a three-time all-American wrestler from the University of Maryland who now coaches at Columbia University.
Taylor spoke with The Advocate about why he believes targeting pro sports can change the world, and about what exactly he’ll tell the NBA during training.
The Advocate: You were a wrestler in college, what prompted you to stop?
Hudson Taylor: I started wrestling when I was 6 years old. Wrestling has been a part of my life ever since I can remember and has taught me some of the most important lessons I know. While I am not actively training to compete, I am still coaching at Columbia and trying to pass on some of the knowledge I have gained through the sport. Perhaps, I will find myself lacing up the shoes in the near future. Only time will tell.
Have you always been an ally to the LGBT community?
Absolutely not, it would be dishonest of me to say I never used a homophobic slur or that I never remained silent when I heard my friends and teammates use such language. The truth is, like many athletes, for most of my life as a competing athlete I was not conscious of my word choices and did not make other people conscious of theirs.
In previous interviews, you’ve said that you don't have close friends or family members who are gay. Has that changed?
More than you will ever know! Living in New York City and having met so many amazing people through my advocacy with Athlete Ally, most of my best friends and people I spend my time with are LGBT.
Walk me through the progression of your organization. You started off by sounding off about LGBT rights and speaking out by wearing an HRC sticker on your head gear, correct? How did a simple act of activism turn in to where you are today?
When I was a college wrestler, I didn’t think I would become a gay rights activist or start an organization. I was just trying to make small changes to the community of which I was a part of. But after interviewing about being an athlete ally and wearing the HRC sticker, I received so many inspiring emails that made me realize the importance of and power in straight allies advancing equality in sport through speaking out. If a college wrestler could get thousands of emails just for calling himself an athlete ally, then a football player, or coach, or professional athlete speaking out in support of the LGBT community in sports could change the world. Having realized the potential to make a difference through allyship, Athlete Ally was born.
What is Athlete Ally? Walk us through the organization, its mission and what it hopes to achieve.
Athlete Ally is a non-profit sports organization dedicated to educating and empowering the straight athletes in sports to speak out against homophobia and transphobia. I believe that a closeted athlete or coach’s comfort level with coming out is directly related to how many vocal allies that individual has in their life. As such, Athlete Ally works to educate athletes and coaches about why LGBT allyship is important, strategize ways to help more straight allies speak out, and how it directly works with student-athletes and coaches to build successful Athlete Ally campaigns on their team or in their athletic community.