When David Spiro registered for Legal Studies 231 last semester, he had no idea that a few short months later he would find himself and a few other students leading an event that brought together over 150 of his peers in the 5th Annual Pride Games.

It all started when Spiro’s Sports Ventures and Social Impact professor, Kenneth Shropshire, brought in Nevin Caple, a former college basketball player and founder of Freedom Sound’s Br{ache the Silence project, to speak to the class.

Caple inspired Spiro to expand his class project into a partnership between Br{ache the Silence and PATH, Penn Athletes & Allies Tackling Homophobia.

PATH had been hosting the Pride Games every year to a small audience. With the new partnership, the Games tripled its number of participants this year and brought Caple, a keynote speaker, to the event.

Caple agreed to speak at Pride Games free of charge. “Being from Philadelphia, it’s important to give back to the community,” she said. “Just as much as I was giving, the students were also giving their time and resources and just their willingness to speak up in support of inclusion.”

Students from opposite ends of the social spectrum gathered. They were urged to break the silence not only for their own sakes but also for those of their family and friends.

“We’ve had a tradition of supporting members on the team that we know are open [about their sexuality],” said College senior Veronica Salcido, a member of the women’s track team. “We’ve always had someone involved in LGBT so we just come out here to support them.”

For most, their support seemed like common sense. Wharton sophomore Anne Hofinga, a member of the women’s rowing team, said, “If it makes you happy to love a boy or girl, it doesn’t really matter. It matters that you’re happy. So why not help people get happy?”

College junior Jason Magnes, who is also a member of the men’s tennis team, shared his personal coming out story and his hope that others will have a team as accepting as his.

Members of the Queer Student Alliance also came in support of the Games and PATH athletes.

“By bringing members from these two communities together … you have this solidarity kind of happening,” Magnes added. “[We’re] bridging these two communities that really are normally so discrete.”

He and Caple agree that the lack of professional athletes coming out can be attributed to homophobia in the sports world.

“In order for athletes to come out, you need to have allies, which are just like straight people that are supportive of gay people, being a bit more vocal and active in their support,” said Magnes.

“This issue isn’t talked about as much as it should be,” said Spiro. “We’ve progressed so far in so many other aspects like gender and racial equality.”

The Pride Games attempt to finally get the ball rolling on the issues at hand, vocalizing concerns and showing that there is strength in numbers. “I’m comfortable with the gay community but I want to show support so that more people can be,” said Engineering freshman and volleyball player Kendall Turner.

It was just supposed to be a simple research paper. Then Spiro had the “opportunity to make a difference.” Now with over six sponsors, 20 clubs and athletic teams and 150 participants he has fully taken advantage of that opportunity.

“Sports is a great platform for social change,” said Spiro. “Hopefully all these people will take what they learned today and talk to their friends about it and try to promote change.”

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