Last month professional soccer player Sarah Huffman acknowledged she was a part of the LGBT community for the first time when she released a statement on why she is part of Athlete Ally, an organization that hopes to combat homophobia in sports.
“I never did any of this for myself,” Sarah said. “This is about something bigger than me. However, if me making a statement like I did helps people, that’s amazing. I’ve never felt different and acknowledging this hasn’t changed anything for me either.”
Sarah, who currently plays for the Western New York Flash, said she has felt the support from fans on social media since aligning herself with the organization.
“After all the Supreme Court hearings this year, I felt I needed to get involved,” Sarah said. “It’s not often you feel like you have a platform to help others, and while it exists for me being a professional soccer player, I took advantage of it. I did a lot of research with different organizations and decided to partner with Athlete Ally.”
Athlete Ally was started by Hudson Taylor, a former wrestler and now coach who started the non-profit after he observed homophobia and transphobia during his career.
“Hudson Taylor has an awesome vision and is extremely driven towards making a difference,” Sarah said. “For now the main purpose of getting NWSL and USWNT players involved is just to voice support. I know there are many exciting times ahead for Athlete Ally but for now the commitment is just to be a voice for equality.”
Sarah acknowledged it can be easier for women to be out in professional sports.
“People ahead of me paved the way for a lot of LGBT females in locker rooms that I’ve been a part of,” she said. “I would like to think when you reach a certain level it’s better today for athletes. However, I think that the struggle is very real for younger kids today. That’s the next barrier to break down. I hope that one day it’s not even a conversation. It’s more ‘Who are you dating?’ ‘Oh, that’s awesome. I’m glad they make you happy.'”
The WNBA and the NWSL have both been more gay-friendly in the last few years than ever before, encouraging both players and fans to be out and proud while celebrating their favorite teams.
“It’s hard to say who we are ‘marketing’ to,” Sarah said. “I think we are still marketing towards families. But I’ve seen rainbow flags in Boston, Seattle and Portland. I hope the fans know we appreciate them, no matter their sexual orientation.”
Speaking of Portland, Sarah will be living there on the off-season, and she said it’s one of her favorite places to play.
“It’s an awesome city and I have a lot of amazing friends there,” she said. “I’m excited to be a part of the city, eat good food, drink good wine and coffee, and dive into the culture and outdoor lifestyle.”
Sarah (called “Huffy” by fans) is one of the league’s top midfielders and she recently delivered a game-tying pass to Carli Lloyd for the goal against Boston before covering defense for injured teammate Alex Sahlen. Tonight the Flash (who are currently 8-4-7) take on Seattle FC (5-11-3) at home, which means Sarah will face off against fellow out and Athlete Ally member Megan Rapinoe. After Seattle, there are only two more games in the regular season, and if the Flash clinch the win, they’ll head to playoffs.
Out of all of the great moments in her career to date, Sarah said she counts winning the first-ever Youth World Cup for females in 2002 as the best thus far. As for what’s next, she has a lot of plans for the future both on the field and off.
“I love being a professional soccer player, but I dream of what’s next,” Sarah said. “I am excited to have a family. I want to have a job where I make a difference in the lives of young children. And to be in a city for more than six months at a time.”
Watch the WNYF vs. Seattle match streaming live on the WNYFlash site tonight at 7:05 p.m. EST.