Story at a glance
- Acceptance and representation for LGBTQ+ athletes has come a long way in recent years.
- As more and more athletes compete as openly LGBTQ+, many are winning corporate sponsorships and endorsements.
- Transgender athletes are still especially discriminated against and many are still struggling to participate in sports, let alone obtain sponsorships or endorsement deals.
Megan Rapinoe, Breanna Stewart, Adam Rippon, Tom Daley, Matthew Mitcham, Gus Kenworthy and Quinn — the list goes on. LGBTQ+ athletes are crushing it on and off the field on the world's biggest stages and out of the closet.
Whereas in previous decades, coming out as a nonheterosexual, noncisgender athlete may have jeopardized your career, acceptance and representation has come a long way in recent years. If the openly LGBTQ+ athletes at the Tokyo Olympics were a country, that nation would currently be ranked 12th place, according to Outsports, which is tracking their medal count. But that success isn’t distributed equally.
“If you are an NFL player, you are going to have bigger opportunities than a squash player, and if you are a male player, you’re going to have bigger opportunities than women,” Eric Anderson, professor of health and well-being at England’s University of Winchester, told NBC News. “Women don’t get as many endorsements unless they are a really big name in a really big sport.”
Transgender athletes are still especially discriminated against, and many are still struggling to participate in sports, let alone obtain sponsorships or endorsement deals.
“We are facing battles in state after state about whether transgender athletes can qualify,” Bob Witeck, president of Witeck Communications, a firm specializing in LGBTQ marketing, told NBC News. “The barriers to them being permitted free and equal competition is where we stand at the moment.”
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