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Atticus DeProspo on the field for Big Red men's soccer

Atticus DeProspo '15 on the field for Big Red men's soccer. Photo: Cornell Athletic Communications.

Athlete Ally chapter helps LGBT athletes

Cornell men's soccer midfielder Atticus DeProspo '15 launched an Athlete Ally chapter on the Ithaca campus in September "to break down barriers and show that LGBT individuals can be anyone and anywhere."

The organization's "message of tolerance, respect and acceptance for all people" has received positive feedback from Big Red teams and the campus community, he says.

All are welcome to join Athlete Ally, a group which is an approved Cornell University independent organization and has the support of DeProspo's school, ILR.

"It's not just student athletes, it's anyone who supports the mission and values of Athlete Ally, and wants to help change sports culture to be more respectful," he says.

Since posting his personal story on the national Athlete Ally website, DeProspo said he has received and given support.

"I've gotten a lot of emails from strangers, talking about their own struggles, and from parents who suspect that their child might be gay. They are happy to see that we're working to change sports culture and know that their child can be gay and, if they want to play sports, they'll be safe," he says.

"It's about creating a safe environment for people to be honest about who they are. The focus is on recognizing the current culture, and working to change it to be more accepting. We are trying to help young people who are struggling with their identities accept themselves. Just because they don't fit a certain mold or stereotype doesn't mean they can't be who they are. People shouldn't have to give up on their dreams because of one facet of their personality."

Major League Soccer player Robbie Rogers inspired DeProspo to come out as a gay student-athlete to friends and family in spring 2013.

"Rogers' example gave me the final push I needed to 'play it forward,' as we say in Athlete Ally, and help others accept themselves, as well. Hopefully, we will create a space that people can gravitate to if they're not receiving that support elsewhere," he says.

Beth Livingston, assistant professor of human resource studies in the ILR School, is faculty

adviser for Cornell's Athlete Ally group. She also serves on the advisory board for the national organization.

Livingston "has been very supportive and passionate about Athlete Ally because a lot of her research overlaps with issues Athlete Ally wants to address in the sports community," DeProspo says.

She is helping the group identify the current culture in the sports environment and "aspects of it that are not tolerant, like homophobic terms used in locker rooms," he continues. "She's helping us show people how to really be allies, and how to foster a more positive culture in the team environment."

Individuals make all the difference, DePropso says: "The biggest thing is to not participate in the elements of sports culture that are homophobic. It's important to take a stand, not stand idly by as these terms are used. We need to put an end to intolerance."

DeProspo says he has received "hundreds" of supportive emails from alumni since starting the chapter, and is working on scheduling an alumni discussion panel on the past, present and future climate of LGBT inclusion in the athletic community.

Alumni also have reached out to help fund such upcoming initiatives for Cornell Athlete Ally as speaking events and programs for athletic teams and coaching staffs about inclusion, DeProspo says.

Mary Catt is assistant director of communications for the ILR School; Laura Carver is an intern in ILR's communications and marketing department.

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