While now-Nashville SC defender Eric Miller was playing for Minnesota United in 2018, teammate Collin Martin came out as gay, receiving a standing ovation when he walked onto the pitch after his announcement. What Miller saw at the time were teammates and fans being extraordinarily supportive.
“For me as a teammate, it was great to see Collin be himself. It was so normal. It was really cool that he came out” to such an environment, Miller told Broadway Sports Media in a phone interview on Wednesday.
That said, and despite the fact the other “coming out stories” in soccer—e.g., Robbie Rogers, Jake Daniels—have met with supportive reactions, there appears to still be a general hesitation for players to come out, with some contexts being more difficult than others. Moreover, there are many others sports, played at a variety of levels and contexts, in which coming out is far more difficult than in professional soccer.
Some of that hesitation can be attributed to the simple desire of a player to just play and not have attention drawn to his personal life in other ways. But some of it, Miller posits, still has to do with the long history linking sports (especially male sports) with homophobia.
As a result, Miller has for years been interested in helping create an inclusive environment in soccer. While playing for the Colorado Rapids, his mother sent him an email with a link to “Playing for Pride,” an organization dedicated to finding ways for soccer players to raise funds to help support LGBTQI+ athletes. Working in conjunction with Athlete Ally and other organizations, the funds go toward legal and educational programming that help establish a more inclusive athletic world.
Playing for Pride emphasizes putting their funding into environments that they see as the most difficult and challenging ones for gay athletes.
Miller began working with the organization soon after. Playing alongside Martin only made his work even more relevant.
“Anyone and everyone should feel welcome in soccer,” Miller notes. And while that’s not always been the case, he sees signs that we are getting there. While the bravery of those, like Rogers and Martin, who have come out helps build visibility, there is still plenty of work to be done at all levels of athletics.
And that’s where Playing for Pride comes in.
Miller is, as he has the last several years, running a fundraising raffle for Playing for Pride to help support the effort, while offering some really great prizes. While you can get the full details on the website, the top prize includes two tickets to Nashville SC’s September 10th home match vs LA Galaxy, a private tour of Nashville’s Geodis Park led by Eric himself, an opportunity to be a community flag bearer on pitch prior to kickoff, A “Swag Bag” of Nashville SC gear, and an autographed jersey signed by entire Nashville SC Team. In addition, there are a number of prizes beyond the grand prize. There are multiple levels of giving (of course, the more you give, the better your odds of winning are).
If you are an ally like Miller, he hopes you’ll find a way to be supportive and sponsor an important cause. The chance of winning a prize doesn’t hurt, either.