Three years ago, Collin Martin made a life-changing decision.
Then with Major League Soccer’s Minnesota United FC, the Maryland native came out as a gay man. Since then, Martin has been at the forefront of the conversation of inclusivity and LGBTQ+ equity in sports and professional soccer while becoming an essential voice in the drive to change perceptions and attitudes toward gay athletes.
In collaboration with PUMA and The Trevor Project, USL HQ sat down with the San Diego Loyal SC midfielder, who remains one of the few openly gay men’s professional soccer players in world football. In an in-depth discussion, Martin discussed coming out publicly as a gay athlete, being present in other people’s growth, and how allyship can broaden the impact of change in communities.
On normalizing being a gay man in professional sports
CM: Growing up, I didn’t see many gay athletes like myself, so it took me a while to accept myself and different facets of my life, but one of the places I didn’t see much representation was in sports. I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of achieving my goals, which was to be a professional soccer player. Initially, when I was coming out and figuring out my sexuality in general, it was going to be far out of my mind. I think when I realized how hard those obstacles were for me early on in my career, and how other people that were in my place weren’t having to deal with this whole other component of growing up and maturing, and if I can make that process easier, speed that up for people, it would only be right. In general, I had a really good, easy experience, but there still is that growth that straight athletes don’t have to go through.
On changing perceptions and ideas in the locker room
CM: All you need to do is give someone a new idea, or a new way to think, and from there they’ll either address it and think about it in a different way, or they’ll still be maybe stuck in their ways. You’ve just got to give them a chance to do better. Not a lot of my teammates have had gay friends. They maybe haven’t felt comfortable enough to ask a question that they were naïve about or didn’t know about, so within those conversations – as long as they’re respectful – that’s where the real growth is.
On what allyship looks like and the means to create positive change
CM: It’s about standing up for something that doesn’t personally affect you, for me that’s what allyship is. Whether you want to stand up financially, whether you want to stand up and build awareness, there’s different ways to do it, right? You can give your money, you can give your time, you can give education to the next person, so they have the right tools to support someone in the community, and that’s what it looks like to me. … We can’t do it all, we can’t pledge our time and energy to 100 different things, and try to make legitimate, positive change, so if there’s one area in the community that really care about – like we’re talking with the 365 days of Pride with the USL– that’s moving toward more actual, substantial work that’s going to be done on a day-to-day basis with an actual goal.
On what the USL and teams can do better moving forward
CM: Obviously, we talked about Pride Matches, I think we can expand on them. League-wide, I don’t know how much you would have to push a certain narrative, necessarily. I think that’s where the teams more can really engage their fans and make that night or that time a special time for those fans, and then I think the last thing is if an incident happens, as a league you make sure it’s properly dealt with. I think with the incident that happened, I thought the league did a good job of addressing it, taking it very seriously, and making sure that people understand that if there are going to be issues that whether its with fans, or players, or coaches, there are going to be things that happen, and as long as they’re properly reprimanded, that’s all you could ask for.