The world of sports has made huge changes in the way people from the LGBTQ community are treated, with an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusion that would have been unheard of only a few decades ago. As such, there are now several openly LGBTQ athletes competing on the circuit and being recognised and celebrated for their talents rather than being ostracised for their sexuality.
The world surrounding sports has also evolved to be more inclusive, and sportsbook brands like BetMGM are huge LGBTQ supporters. With public outpourings of support for LGBTQ athletes, the barriers are coming down, and some of the top-earning LGBTQ stars include:
As one of the most successful female basketball stars, Brittney Greer commanded a salary of $1.2 million which puts her at the top of this list. When she publicly came out in 2013, it was via an interview in Sports Illustrated, and it was the cause of much speculation among the mainstream media.
As the first pick in the WNBA Rookie Draft that year, Griner was right in the spotlight when she came out, but her performance on the court soon overshadowed the gossip about her in the papers. She began by smashing the league’s overall dunk record, in her first game, and continued to break records throughout her career.
When she took her team to the Rio Olympics in 2016, the US had high hopes for them and they still managed to exceed expectations, and Griner was subsequently picked for the team for the next Olympics. Given her form, it should have come as no surprise that when the 2020 Olympics were finally held in 2021, Griner took home another gold.
Griner has responded to accusations that her sexuality isn’t relevant to her sporting career by stating that she wants to provide a visible face for children who might be growing up the way she did. Having been bullied during her childhood, she is passionate about preventing the cycle of bullying by working with children and educating the next generation to make it easier for them to enjoy successful careers without feeling stigmatised.
As a wrestler with a huge following, Darren Young’s announcement that he is gay was welcomed by the WWE who have shown their support. The ‘announcement’ appeared to be quite impromptu – a reporter from TMZ ran into Young at Los Angeles International Airport and asked if he believed a young gay wrestler could succeed in the WWE.
Young’s response, that he was just such a wrestler, prompted responses from some of the biggest names in the business, such as John Cena. Cena offered his public support to Darren Young and encouraged other young wrestlers to be open about their sexuality.
Having wrestled since high school, it wasn’t until he was at university that Young decided to focus on wrestling as his main sport, but he had always had an interest in the sport. Having grown up around backyard wrestling as well as being a big fan of the WWE, Young was more than aware that the environment wasn’t always welcoming to gay athletes.
Darren Young has publicly confirmed that he wants to make a difference and improve the degree to which individuals are accepted in competitive sports.
As one of the world’s most impressive divers, Tom Daley impressed the crowds at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 where he won two gold medals. Just two years later, he was back in the spotlight, winning hearts and minds with his performance at the 2012 Olympics, in front of a home crowd.
A year later, just after he started dating the man who would go on to be his husband, Daley released a YouTube video confirming that he is gay. Bolstered by his Olympic success, Daley leveraged his popularity by using his platform to bolster the ongoing movement towards inclusivity.
After a documentary in which Daley travelled to other countries in the Commonwealth to learn about how gay citizens are treated, he has shone a spotlight on the progress that is still to be made, both at home and in other countries.
Tennis may be one of the most welcoming sports for gay athletes, thanks in part to the trailblazing work of the legendary Martina Navratilova, but it still takes courage to come out. Lisa Raymond’s amazing record as a tennis player proves that there is no room for discrimination in sports if you want the best athletes to win the top prizes.
During her hugely decorated career, Raymond has won doubles championships the world over, including at the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Olympics.
Football may not have a reputation as a welcoming environment for gay players, but when Robbie Rogers came out in 2013, it was to a slew of congratulations and well-wishes from his fellow players. His ongoing success has seen him take the role of a mentor to other young gay players, including Jason Collins who sought Rogers’ guidance when he wanted to come out as a gay NBA player.
Rogers now offers the benefit of his experience to other young people, working with colleges to help students by sharing his experiences.
With an increasing number of high-profile LGBTQ athletes, change is largely moving in the right direction when it comes to acceptance in both men’s and women’s sports.