Ben Cohen, the recently retired professional rugby player for England’s Sale Sharks, was interviewed on CNN in Atlanta while on a tour to promote awareness and eradication of bullying (as reported by a several blogs). According to his website, Cohen travelled to Atlanta, New York, Washington, D.C., and Seattle as chairman of his own StandUp Foundation, an organization committed to ending bullying and homophobia in sports. Cohen met with various gay and gay friendly rugby clubs during his tour to share his message of equality and acceptance.
As a straight championship winning athlete, Cohen recognizes the influential position he holds in the world of sports and is using it for the benefit of LGBT people. Speaking about his work, Cohen told a group of Atlanta rugby players, “The reason why I got into this foundation, the reason why I want to eradicate homophobia in sports and bullying in general, is because I have quite a huge following and with that comes a responsibility; and it’s something that I could be in a privileged position to do something about...”
In the interview, Cohen reveals his personal connection to his work. His father, who managed a nightclub in England, was severely beaten in October 2000 and died a month later from his injuries. Cohen says that he is passionate about speaking out against bullying and the everlasting effects it can have on someone’s life. As an athlete, Cohen has overcome the challenges of being clinically deaf to find extraordinary success. Cohen led England to victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup and was made a member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
In spite of his accolades, Cohen has retired from his promising sports career to focus his full attention on the StandUp Foundation. Cohen said that while he has been committed to the mission of StandUp for the past 7 years, he is now ready to put all of his time into making the sports world a safer place for all athletes. He told CNN, “Sports should be welcome to anyone who’s good at it, whether they’re perceived as different or not. If you’re good at your sport, that should do the talking.” GLAAD applauds Ben Cohen and the StandUp Foundation for raising awareness about homophobia and bullying in sports.