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NFL Player Matt Gay, Harassed for Name, Will Wear Antibullying Cleats

Matt Gay

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers player will show LGBTQ solidarity at an upcoming game.

Matt Gay is putting his foot down against bullying.

The professional football player, a kicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will wear antibullying cleats Sunday in the team's match against the Indianapolis Colts.

The sartorial activism is tied to a National Football League campaign, My Cause, My Cleats, in which players, for one game each year, decorate their shoes in a manner that links them to a cause.

Gay's advocacy for antibullying efforts is inspired by his youth in Utah, where he was bullied due to the "gay" association of his last name.

"I got bullied and teased all the time for my last name and things like that," Gay told the Tampa Bay Times. "Luckily I was stronger-willed than they were and overcome it. There's a lot of kids that get bullied in this world and have no way to stand up for themselves."

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Gay also said the issue has "strongly affected" his family members, including nieces and nephews. He sees bullying as especially problematic in the age of social media, which has exacerbated and amplified it, while giving anonymity to the offenders.

"It's everywhere. It's so easy to hide behind a phone and say whatever you want," said Gay, adding, "I think it's pure coward-ism for those who do it and there's no place for it in this world."

Gay, as an NFL player, also continues to be the target of online hatred, which is another reason he is fighting against it.

"It's crazy. Some of the messages I receive, it's almost like people forget you're an actual human being,'' Gay told the Times. "That you're sending this to another person. It's easy when you're sitting behind a phone and not face to face with someone and can say whatever you want. But you don't know it's affecting that person, it's affecting the mom and those that are around them. Just being able to show a little faith in humanity and love everyone."

"We're all struggling through life," Gay concluded. "There's no reason to beat somebody down for no reason."

Outsports counted 14 football players who wore cleats to fight bullying in 2018. In addition to Gay, Tyrell Williams (Oakland Raiders), Cedrick Wilson Jr. (Dallas Cowboys), and Jonotthan Harrison (New York Jets) have all laced up this year for the cause.

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