MINNEAPOLIS -- To Minnesota United FC midfielder Collin Martin, the hardest part of coming out as gay didn't happen when he told the public on Friday, but when he broke the news to his family years ago.
But as Martin, his teammates, and his coaches talked about his statement on Friday, a common theme emerged. Martin had the support of his team and players around the league, and that clearly made a difference for the midfielder as he considered coming out publicly.
“I've been reading some negative experiences during pride month from guys who recently came out and I just wanted to share my positive experience,” Martin explained.
Overall, he described his experience coming out to his teammates in very positive terms.
“I told a few teammates in D.C. before I left,” Martin said of his first MLS team, D.C. United, where he played 2013-2016. “In Minnesota I didn't make a concerted effort but make sure I was being completely open about how I live my life and the past two years have been great in terms of that.”
His teammates echoed Martin’s description of the support they've offered.
“We've known for a while and you already know he's got all our support,” captain Michael Boxall stated.
“I'm just so happy for him,” defender Brent Kallman said. “We're all really proud him.”
Other teammates took to social media to show their support.
Proud of this guy who is an incredible person and amazing teammate. Takes so much courage to be one of the first to come out, but everyone at @MNUFC is fully supporting you. ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜 https://t.co/FkQu6Vo0Wz— Eric Miller (@emillller) June 29, 2018
You the man Col! Proud to call you a teammate and friend! Now Let’s go get this W!— Christian Ramirez (@Chris_Ramirez17) June 29, 2018
For Martin, it was the annual Playing for Pride fundraiser for LGBTQ causes specifically related to sports started by former MLS player Austin Da Luz that helped Martin see how much support he would have throughout the league.
“Seeing the likes of Sacha Kljestan supporting Playing for Pride and other guys around the league, it's meant a lot to me, that guys care about that stuff and are going to support a teammate,” he said.
After the match, a number of FC Dallas players came up and told Martin how happy they were for his decision to go public.
And it wasn’t just players who had Martin’s back. The whole Minnesota United FC organization has very supportive of LGBTQ rights. Minnesota United FC was the first professional team to support Athlete Ally, an organization that works to "raise awareness and end homophobia in sports."
When team owner Dr. Bill McGuire, a man rarely at a loss for words, was asked what the team has done to make it a supportive place for a player to come out, he had to pause before he answered: “I don't think we've done anything special other than be who we are.”
He added: “I think organizationally we have always been about tolerance and promoting and supporting all the things that we talk about that make soccer great.”
Moving forward, Martin and his teammates are hoping this helps others as they decide how and when they make public their identities, including their sexuality.
“If he can help somebody else out there struggling to be themselves then that's brilliant,” Boxall stated, a belief echoed by many of Martin’s teammates.
But there's still work to be done before all gay athletes feel comfortable being open with their teammates and the public. Martin is currently the only professional male athlete in the five major team sports in the US who is out.
“It's still crazy to think that I am still the only out gay man,” Martin said, adding, “There are more of us out there.”
Martin knew that making this announcement would mark a change in his life, but he wasn’t quite prepared for how busy the day would be. So far, he’s very happy with his decision.
“I felt love and appreciated and supported. It was a special day for me,” he said.