GLAAD recognized several out athletes on stage at Saturday's 25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at the historic Waldorf Astoria in New York. Out NCAA basketball player Derrick Gordon, WWE Superstar Darren Young, Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup and MMA fighter Jessica Aguilar were all acknowledged during the Ketel One-sponsored toast for those forwarding equality.
This April, UMass Amherst guard Derrick Gordon came out to ESPN as the first openly gay male National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I basketball player. "I am telling my story so that athletes never feel like they have to hide. You can be true to yourself and play the sport that you love," Gordon said. He's received support from other out athletes including Michael Sam, Brittney Griner and Jason Collins.
WWE Superstar Darren Young spoke out about being gay last summer when a cameramen from TMZ asked him if he thought a gay wrestler could be successful. His response? "Absolutely. Look at me. I’m a WWE Superstar and to be honest with you, I’ll tell you right now I’m gay and I’m happy. Very happy." Young went on to serve as a GLAAD Spirit Day ambassador to send a message of support for LGBT youth and encourage others to do the same and he also became the first out playable character in a sports game with the release of WWE 2K14 from game publisher 2K. Young was recently announced as a "Boss of Honor" at GaymerX2, the LGBT gaming convention preparing for its second annual event.
Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup has spoken out on a variety of LGBT issues since coming out in 2010, including speaking against Russia's anti-gay law as the eyes of the world turned to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Skjellerup has also shared his story as part of the CNN International documentary Journey of the Gay Athlete.
MMA fighter Jessica Aguilar, who is the current Women's Strawweight champion in the World Series of Fighting, came out in 2012. She has often used her platform to speak about her intersectional identity.
GLAAD's sports program works with professional teams and leagues to elevate affirming voices and build support for equality in the world of sports. GLAAD also works with media outlets to promote LGBT-inclusion in sports coverage.
A Jason Collins-profile episode of Oprah's Next Chapter, "First Openly Gay NBA Player Jason Collins and his Family," received the GLAAD Media Award in New York in Outstanding Talk Show Episode. Other LGBT-inclusive sports themed GLAAD Media Awards nominees included Outstanding Individual Episode nominees Drop Dead Diva ("Secret Lives") and Necessary Roughness ("There's the Door").
Also at the event, GLAAD's President Sarah Kate Ellis received two standing ovations after being introduced by LGBT icon David Mixner. Sarah Kate shared her vision for GLAAD, underscoring how important it is to protect all that has been accomplished. The organizations new initiatives include Global Voices, Southern Stories and Help Engage Youth, these programs are designed to amplify the voice of equality around the world.
George Takei received the Vito Russo Award. Global superstar Kylie Minogue and Grammy Award-winner Kacey Musgraves performed for the capacity crowd. Comedian Fortune Feimster hosted the event. Special guests included: Naomi Watts (Birdman); Emmy Rossum (Shameless); Laverne Cox, Laura Prepon, Natasha Lyonne, Samira Wiley, Dascha Polanco, Selenis Leyva, Yael Stone, Taryn Manning, Emma Myles, Alysia Reiner (Orange is the New Black); Robin Weigert, Stacie Passon (Concussion); Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly); Lee Tergesen (The Americans); pop star Boy George; Tamron Hall (Today's Take); country singer Chely Wright; out Grammy-winning country music songwriter Shane McAnally; New Orleans bounce performer Big Freedia; out NCAA basketball player Derrick Gordon; WWE Superstar Darren Young; Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup; MMA fighter Jessica Aguilar; transgender model Geena Rocero; GLAAD National Spokespersons Wilson Cruz and Omar Sharif, Jr., and GLAAD CEO & President Sarah Kate Ellis.
The 25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards are presented nationally by Ketel One Vodka, Wells Fargo, and Hilton Worldwide. The New York City event is presented locally by Delta Airlines and Bud Light.