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Gay Soccer Teammates and Fiancées: ‘Everyone Wants to Be Accepted’

05/18/2014 at 05:15 PM EDT

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Joanna Lohman and Lianne Sanderson

Jeff Riedel

Unlike many pro athletes a generation ago, when soccer players Joanna Lohman and Lianne Sanderson came out in their early twenties, their families, friends and teammates were more than accepting.

“When I told some of my ex-teammates, they didn’t care,” says Lohman, 31, who now plays for the Boston Breakers with Sanderson, her partner since 2010. “They were like, ‘Whatever. That’s great.’ “

Sanderson, 26, who also plays for England’s national team, tells PEOPLE, “Our families were so understanding. We certainly have friends and people who have reached out to us who weren’t that lucky.”

Indeed, fans and strangers reach out to the engaged couple, asking them for advice.

“I get people writing to me probably bi-weekly telling me about their journey and how they don’t know how to come out and that they don’t know how to tell their parents,” says Lohman, speaking with PEOPLE exclusively for a portfolio of gay professional athletes on their choices to play and live openly. (Watch a video of all the athletes below.) 

“I try to give them advice and make them feel like they’re not alone. Everyone wants to be accepted. When they see me and Lianne out on the field, they think, ‘Wow. If they can do it on that stage …’ It gives them power to really live their lives honestly.”

Lohman, who has played on the U.S. women’s national team, volunteers with Go! Athletes, an organization committed to ending anti-LGBT bias in sports, speaking at colleges about her experiences as an out athlete.

“I never thought when I started playing soccer that I would ever have this platform to truly make a difference,” says Lohman. “Never did I think it would be through my sexuality, but I’m very open and honest. I like to interact with the fans and hopefully they believe that I’m down-to-earth and accessible.”

Sanderson understands what it feels like to be singled out. Growing up, she was the only girl on an all-boys’ team. “If I was playing in a game and I was getting a goal, some of the parents would say, ‘Oh. She’s only a girl,” and say derogatory things about me,” she says.

“My mom and dad would get upset, but then at the end of the game, those same people would come up to me, shaking my hand and congratulating me. It shouldn’t have even gotten to that point.”

Hearing those comments only made her more “inspired,” says Sanderson, who turned pro at age 14 and played on England’s World Cup team at 19. “It didn’t really affect me. I think when you get older things that people say may affect you more. I just wanted to play soccer and wanted to run around in the mud and be outside.”

For more on Joanna Lohman and Lianne Sanderson and the exclusive portfolio of gay professional athletes, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now, and return to PEOPLE.com for more stories about coming out in sports.

Pro Gay Athletes Share Their Moving Stories

 

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Source: Gay Soccer Teammates and Fiancées: ‘Everyone Wants to Be Accepted’

Michelle Keegan Looks Gorgeous at Outside ITV Studios, London

e0a1MichelleKeeganLooksGorgeous Michelle Keegan Looks Gorgeous at Outside ITV Studios, London

Michelle Keegan is included in cutest English actresses. She is looking very hot and spicy in white shirt with black open pant. These smiling and gorgeous photos are taken at Outside ITV Studios in London.

Michelle+Keegan+Looks+Gorgeous+(7) Michelle Keegan Looks Gorgeous at Outside ITV Studios, London

Michelle+Keegan+Looks+Gorgeous+(1) Michelle Keegan Looks Gorgeous at Outside ITV Studios, London

Michelle+Keegan+Looks+Gorgeous+(2) Michelle Keegan Looks Gorgeous at Outside ITV Studios, London

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Michelle+Keegan+Looks+Gorgeous+(6) Michelle Keegan Looks Gorgeous at Outside ITV Studios, London

 Michelle Keegan Looks Gorgeous at Outside ITV Studios, London
Source: Michelle Keegan Looks Gorgeous at Outside ITV Studios, London

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California Chrome Wins the Preakness

05/17/2014 at 06:45 PM EDT

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Art Sherman and California Chrome

Morry Gash/AP; (inset) Scott Serio/ESW/CSM/AP

At first, it looked like it might not happen, but California Chrome displayed the heart of a champion when he came from third place to win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.

The Kentucky Derby winner – a chestnut colt with four white feet – had been heard coughing after training on Thursday, but was treated with a glycerin throat wash as his trainer declared it was just “a little tickle.”

Winning the $1.5 million Preakness means that California Chrome could be the first horse in 36 years to take the Triple Crown – if he wins the Belmont Stakes in three weeks’ time.

“The Triple Crown means so much, but I’m old-school,” Art Sherman, the horse’s trainer, told Fox News. “Let’s just go one race at a time.”

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Source: California Chrome Wins the Preakness

Gay Former NFL Player Wade Davis: Out Youth Taught Me to Be Fearless

05/17/2014 at 06:00 PM EDT

Wade Davis kept his secret from teammates until nine years after his NFL playing days were over.

“I never even thought about telling anyone I was gay,” he says, speaking to PEOPLE as part of an exclusive portfolio of gay athletes in professional sports. “I never saw someone who was gay who looked like me, acted like me, who was accepted. It wasn’t unimaginable that I wouldn’t be accepted.”

Raised Southern Baptist in a military family, he overheard slurs as a child that labeled others. He says he diverted attention from his own sexual awakening by bullying a gay high school classmate. And he kept his identity in check playing defensive back from 2000-2003 as he cycled through three NFL teams and two seasons of NFL Europe.

But it took a toll. During his playing time in Berlin, “there was a part of me that was getting exhausted with it, and a part of me that thought we had gotten so close as a team, I thought they would actually be okay with it,” he says.

“I couldn’t say the word ‘gay’ out loud, but if they just found out, that would be cool. But there was just so much uncertainty, that maybe this guy will be cool but that guy won’t.”

His outlook changed after his career ended. While living in New York City in 2005 he found a gay recreational sports league. “For the first time there was a place for me,” he says. “That saved me.”

It also built up his confidence. Davis began to volunteer with marginalized LGBT youth, coming out publicly himself in 2012.

Now he’s executive director of the You Can Play Project, a nonprofit that tackles homophobia and discrimination in all sports. After Michael Sam came out in February, Davis carried his own message of inclusion to the annual meeting of the NFL’s coaches and general managers, hoping to ease the transition for them and others still to come.

“Everything that I learned, I’ve been taught by a young kid,” he says. “I really, truly envy any person who is out at a young age. I look at them with such admiration, and try to tell them how courageous they are, because they don’t see what they’re doing as something that’s so great.”

That extends to the kid he bullied in high school, he says.

“I would love to offer him a sincere apology,” says Davis. “I would love to offer him my heart, and my thanks. Because he showed me how you should show up in the world, with vulnerability and fearlessness.”

For more on Wade Davis, Michael Sam and the exclusive portfolio of gay professional athletes, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now, and return to PEOPLE.com for more stories about coming out in sports

Pro Gay Athletes Share Their Moving Stories

7b52p 89EKCgBk8MZdE Gay Former NFL Player Wade Davis: Out Youth Taught Me to Be Fearless
Source: Gay Former NFL Player Wade Davis: Out Youth Taught Me to Be Fearless


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