Assistant referee Matthew Nelson on Tuesday became the first MLS official to publicly reveal that he is gay.
Nelson, who came out to friends and family in June, detailed his decision to come out in a post on OutSports.com, stating that he decided to go public in part to ease his mind and be more open with his fellow officials.
“Since coming out, I have been able to focus more on performing to the best of my ability as an assistant referee,” he wrote. “It has freed my mind from the fear of what others will think. Most importantly, it has allowed me to be myself. The ability to be myself, without feeling the need to put on a façade, is truly freeing. In the past month, I have begun openly dating an amazing man who I now proudly call my partner. Sharing with him my passion for refereeing soccer is truly fulfilling.”
Nelson, who made his professional debut in June 2012 and was a member of the officiating crew at the 2016 MLS All-Star Game, is scheduled to work Wednesday’s Week 30 match between Atlanta United and the Philadelphia Union at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (7 pm ET; MLS LIVE). He has officiated more than 70 MLS matches in his career.
"Being gay is just one part of who I am as a person. I am also a soccer referee, a doctoral student, a friend, a partner, a brother and a son," he wrote. "I hope that telling my story can help others comes to terms with who they are as well."
Read his complete post here.