playing fiercely

5 gay pro athletes who broke ground by coming out while still playing

Tadd Kujikawa, gay male professional sports athletes, pro-golf
Tadd Kujikawa

Today marks the start of the Masters Tournament, one of the four major championships in professional golf. The event will have zero out gay male players, continuing 86 straight years of having none on its roster.

“LGBTQ visibility in men’s golf has been harder to break through than many other pro sports,” writes Outsports editor Cyd Zeigler. There have been out male players in the NFL and NBA playoffs, Major League Soccer (MLS) and in numerous Olympic sports, Zeigler notes, but no out male athletes have ever played in the Masters Tournament.

Out pro-golfer Tadd Fujikawa told Zeigler he thinks that’s because other pro-golfers haven’t been more vocal about their support for the LGBTQ community.

However, here are five groundbreaking male athletes who came out while actively playing in professional sports. While each is extraordinary, they’re also among the few male players who have ever done so, proof that the pro-sports world still has a long way to go towards acceptance of queer men.

1) Bill Tilden

Bill Tilden, gay male professional sports athletes, pro-tennis
Bill Tilden

“Big Bill” William Tilden dominated the international tennis world as an out gay man during the 1920s, becoming the first American to ever win Wimbledon.

Known for his flamboyant and graceful style, he won 14 Major singles titles, 10 Grand Slam events, one World Hard Court Championships, three professional majors and seven U.S. Championships titles during his career.

He officially turned pro in 1930, but his fame was tarnished by two accusations of soliciting underage males. Historians have questioned whether the charges were based on homophobic rumors and stereotypes that vilified gay men at the time.

2) Jason Collins

Jason Collins, gay male professional sports athletes, pro-basketball, NBA
Jason Collins

When Collins came out as gay in the May 6, 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated, he was the first active male athlete in any of the nation’s four major pro-sports leagues to do so.

At the time, he was officially a center with the Washington Wizards, but he then signed a 10-day contract to play with the Brooklyn Nets. He then retired in November 2014, after 13 years playing in the NBA.

He said he chose his jersey number, 98, as a way to honor Matthew Shepard, the gay man whose 1998 murder led to the passage of a national hate crimes law.

3) Robbie Rogers

Robbie Rogers, gay male professional sports athletes, pro-soccer, MLS
Robbie Rogers

When Rogers came out as gay in a February 2013 blog post, the then-25-year-old included it in his announcement about retiring from professional soccer.

“I always thought I could hide this secret,” he wrote. “Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined… Now is my time to step away. It’s time to discover myself away from football”.

However, that same year, he began playing for the L.A. Galaxy team. When the team won the 2014 MLS Cup championship, Rogers became the first out gay male athlete ever to win a major professional team sports title in the United States.

He is married to Greg Berlanti, a TV producer whose many superheroic TV series have featured numerous LGBTQ storylines.

4) Carl Nassib

Carl Nassib, gay male professional sports athletes, pro-football, NFL
Carl Nassib

During Pride month 2021, Nassib came out as gay on his personal Instagram account. In doing so, he became the only NFL player to publicly come out while actively playing in the league. He was a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders.

“I’m a pretty private person, so I hope you guys know that I’m not doing this for attention,” he said in his Instagram post. “I just think that representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that one day, videos like this and the whole coming out process are not necessary.”

The Raiders released Nassib on March 17, 2022.

As a side note, Black football player Michael Sam was the first out man ever to be in a NFL draft. The May 2014 video of him kissing his boyfriend after being accepted in the draft went viral. But even though he played several pre-season games with the St. Louis Rams, he never played during a regular season with any team — he then retired from football in 2015.

5) Tadd Fujikawa


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At age 15, Fujikawa — a Hawaii-born Japanese-American — became the youngest golfer ever to qualify for the U.S. Open. Nearly 12 years later, he became the first-ever male professional golfer to come out.

In 2008, at the age of 17, he won Mid-Pacific Open tournament in Hawaii, an honor he would repeat in 2017.

He has said that he is currently playing mini-tours and qualifiers, but added, “I have struggled with my game for quite a while. But I feel like I have a lot that I can improve upon and I’m moving in the right direction. I’ve competed at the highest level before so I know I have it in me so that keeps me going.”

He posts numerous pics of himself and his boyfriend on his Instagram account.