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LGBTIQ+ Athletes Who Have Been Killing It Throughout The Years


To start off the list, we’ve got former world number 1 tennis player Billie Jean King, who was

the first high profile LGBT athlete to come out as lesbian. King was a fierce advocate for

gender equality in sports and won the famous ‘Battle of the Sexes’ against Bobby Riggs

match in 1973. This match was significant for women’s equality in sports as Riggs had been

claiming that women’s tennis was so inferior to men’s tennis that he, a 55-year-old, could

beat the top player in the women’s league. King’s win brought more visibility and respect

for women’s tennis. Billie Jean King had a relationship with her secretary from 1971 until

1981 when she was outed as a lesbian, which she didn’t deny, and it costed her $2 million in

endorsements. She remained married to her husband however until 1987 when she fell in

love with her double’s partner, Illana Kloss, who she is still with to this day. Billie Jean King is

regarded by many as one of the greatest tennis players of all time and has been inducted

into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Jason Collins - Basketball

Jason Collins, now retired, was the first openly gay basketball player to play for any of the

major pro sports leagues in the USA, which includes the NBA (basketball), NFL(football),

MLB (baseball) and NHL (hockey). Throughout his career, he has played for the Houston

Rockets, New Jersey Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks,

Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets. Being drafted into the NBA back in

2001, it wasn’t until 2013 that Collins came out as gay in a cover story and interview for

Sports Illustrated. Collins even revealed that he chose his jersey number, 98, in honour of

the “notorious anti-gay hate crime” murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998. After coming out,

he became a free agent and begun playing basketball again in 2014 for the Brooklyn Nets. In

2014, Collins was named by Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in

the World”.

Erin Phillips - AFLW

Erin Phillips is a former basketball player and now plays for the Women’s AFL team,

Adelaide Crows. Phillips had played AFL throughout her childhood but had to quit at 13 due

to the lack of women’s AFL pathways at the time. Instead, she played

basketball, playing for Adelaide Lightning, before entering the WNBA in the US, playing for

Connecticut Sun, Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury, Los Angeles Sparks, and Dallas Wings,

before retiring in 2017 to focus on her wife and kids. In her basketball career, she also

represented Australia in the women’s national basketball team, even competing in the 2008

Beijing Olympics and winning a silver medal. Once AFLW came to fruition, Port Adelaide

football club signed Phillips as captain, until the club dropped out of the AFLW league and

she was quickly snapped up by the Adelaide Crows. She won the AFLW best and fairest

medal and the AFLW Players’ Most Valuable Player Award in 2017, as well as being named

the vice-captain of the All-Australian team. It was at the Best and Fairest awards where

upon receiving it, she kissed her wife Tracy, that she was thrown into the spotlight for being

the first ever AFL player to publicly embrace their same-sex partner at this award show.

Phillips won the best and fairest award again in 2019 and continues to play for the Adelaide


Matthew Mitcham - Swimming

Matthew Mitcham is a now retired diver and trampolinist. Mitcham was the first openly gay

athlete to win a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, receiving the highest ever

score in the history of the Olympics for the 10m platform dive. Before diving, Mitcham

originally competed as a trampolinist, representing Australia at the World Junior

Championships in 1999 and 2001 as well as competing in the Youth Olympic festival in 2003.

It was from this he was scouted by the Australian Institute of Sport diving program, which

led to a successful diving career. Mitcham retired from diving in 2016 to focus on a showbiz


Blog Produced by Pride Sports Festival

Written: April 2019