How do we change things on the field, in the office, in the world? Are we looking too much to our line managers and coaches to guide us in a certain direction or should we take more responsibility personally and collectively as individuals, teams and companies?
These were some of the questions swirling around in my head as I sat in the front row of an adidas Speaker Series featuring Robbie Rogers at our North America HQ in Portland, Oregon.
In February 2013, Robbie made history as the first out male athlete to compete in a major US sports league. His first game played with the LA Galaxy was groundbreaking, and he’s been tearing down barriers ever since.
As an out bisexual woman myself and co-lead of Proud to Play, the adidas LGBT employee resource group that brought Robbie to talk that day, I was excited to hear from someone who’s created so much positivity for my community.
Members of our Proud to Play group were fortunate enough to have lunch with Robbie following the speaker series, and even sitting across the table from him, his courage and pride were palpable. He was authentic and driven to make a difference for young kids who are facing the same barriers that he did.
More champions are needed for the voiceless in sport
Robbie explained that when he first came out, he resisted being an icon. He didn’t want to be “the gay soccer player”, but once he realized his responsibility to help others along their own similar paths, he realized the power in sharing his story. And it’s the same for our company. Something Robbie said on stage that day was that companies like adidas don’t just have a platform: we have a responsibility to influence positive change.
It isn’t enough to be quietly supportive of LGBTQ rights; we need to speak up, we need to be a champion for those who don’t have a voice, and we need to show young athletes that in our locker room, they can be whoever they want.
Robbie’s visit was an amazing step towards that goal. Coming away from this day, I felt an overwhelming sense of support from my company. The speaker series was packed to the brim, and people were genuinely excited to hear Robbie’s story. It allows us all a tangible way to connect with how our jobs at adidas can perpetuate change and remove barriers to sport.
To join up with someone like Robbie and help spread his story sends the message to youth everywhere that we are here to support them, to accept them, and to give them the tools necessary to be the kind of athlete they want to be, no matter how they identify.