Dear Toronto FC players (current and former), management, journalists and broadcasters,
I need your help.
You are playing in a city -- and a country -- that is perhaps one of the most accepting and open in the world. People from all backgrounds are welcome in Toronto and Canada. But there is one place where we need folks to help out: to speak out against homophobia, which still exists everywhere (even on and off the pitch) despite the widespread acceptance.
In the United States, where you ply your trade, there is still a huge amount of intolerance (just look at the current Republican presidential primaries, and you can see what I mean.) In the face of this, a number of MLS and even NASL players from Canadian teams have stood up to say "no". Folks like Jay DeMerit and Jordan Harvey from the Vancouver Whitecaps, Justin Braun from the Montreal Impact and even Lance Parker from FC Edmonton...yes, FC Edmonton (in Alberta!) have spoken out.
The LGBT community can count them as supporters and allies in the fight against homophobia...but as far as we know, none of you have stood up, and that is where you come in.
We're not asking for you to lead this year's Toronto Gay Pride parade. All we're asking for you is to take a stand, and count yourself as an ally, helping to promote acceptance and love for all. It's not rocket science (well, I don't think it is anyway...but it could be) -- all we need is your voice.
What can you do? I'm glad you asked.
One, you could help by spreading the word: there is a blog called Gay4Soccer, which actively promotes a credo for all soccer supporters to promote openness and equality. Read up on it here, and if you are able to support it -- declare yourself as an ally simply by tweeting @gay4soccer with the hashtag #soccerally. That's it. TFC currently sits last amongst Canadian teams with zero. you can help change that by spreading the word and being an ally.
Two, you can take part in the NOH8 campaign, which is a movement promoting equal marriage for all created by big name photographer Adam Bouska. Many celebrities have taken part in this campaign (you can see from their website) -- if you believe in equal marriage for all too, then please take part.
Three, you can take part in the It Gets Better campaign. I'm sure as young players, you've probably been picked on for playing a "gay" sport like soccer (which we know isn't), or you've probably heard other kids called "gay", "fag", or whatever. Well, this is your chance to help those kids who are being picked on. Create a video, as a team (or as a group) -- and post it to Toronto FC TV. Show your support, and help the kids. How could that be bad?
If you're stuck for ideas...heck, take a look at what D.C. United did for theirs:
Four, you could help out in the local LGBT community. I promise, it won't make you gay if you do...organizations and groups like the 519 in Toronto could definitely use your voice to spread their message, or your help in executing different events. Heck, think of it as a community link building exercise?
I'm sure there's many others who would love to have your voice -- they're too many to list here, but they all need your help.
At the end of the day, I'm not asking for you to change the world, or cure cancer -- all I need is your help. Stand up against homophobia and intolerance, and count yourself in. Even if you are in Toronto, there are those who watch you across both Canada and the United States who look up to you: this makes your word immensely powerful.
Help us spread the message of love and acceptance. If you believe in the cause, we'd love to have you on board -- even if it's not much, just by being an ally goes one hell of a long way.