NFL star Matt Gay has spoken out about facing bullying because of his name.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers placekicker will show solidarity with LGBT+ people as part of the NFL My Cause, My Cleats campaign, which sees players decorate their shoes to show support for a particular cause.
Speaking to the Tampa Bay Times, Gay explained that he faced taunting for years while growing up in Utah.
He said: “Anti-bullying is huge to me… I got bullied and teased all the time for my last name and things like that.
“Luckily I was stronger-willed than they were and overcome it. There’s a lot of kids that get bullied in this world and have no way to stand up for themselves.”
Matt Gay says his family has been ‘strongly affected’ by bullying.
Gay said that his family members have also faced bullying because of their name and have been “strongly affected by it”.
The player added: “Especially with social media in this day and age. It’s everywhere. It’s so easy to hide behind a phone and say whatever you want… I think it’s pure cowardice for those who do it and there’s no place for it in this world.”
He added: “Some of the messages I receive, it’s almost like people forget you’re an actual human being.
“That you’re sending this to another person. It’s easy when you’re sitting behind a phone and not face to face with someone and can say whatever you want.
“But you don’t know it’s affecting that person, it’s affecting the mum and those that are around them.
“Just being able to show a little faith in humanity and love everyone. We’re all struggling through life. There’s no reason to beat somebody down for no reason.’”
Cleats campaign faces controversy over anti-gay causes.
Although Gay has picked a pro-LGBT cause, the My Cause, My Cleats campaign has also faced controversy over choices made by other athletes.
Outsports reports that across the NFL, six players are supporting the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which asserts that “sexual intimacy” should be reserved for “marriage between one man and one woman”.
The body also appears to advocate conversion therapy, with a statement on “homosexual acts” making clear: “FCA’s desire is to encourage individuals to trust in Jesus and turn away from any impure lifestyle.”
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