MANHATTAN — Former City Council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn was admittedly not the greatest athlete growing up, but she is now working to support openly gay people in sports.
Quinn, who is gay and married longtime partner Kim Catullo in 2012, joined the board of directors for Athlete Ally this year, a nonprofit organization that works to create inclusive athletic environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The organization is holding its first sold-out awards ceremony Thursday at Midtown’s Café Rouge to honor openly gay athletes including Jason Collins and Martina Navratilova, as well as Yankee legend Yogi Berra for his work fighting discrimination in sports.
“I played basketball for two years and I had one basket. I remember it clearly, it was a layup at St. Mary’s Garden City,” Quinn told DNAinfo New York about her experience playing sports at her small Catholic high school on Long Island. “But I loved being on the team. And that’s important and the importance of allies being on a team and stepping up and saying this is a space for everybody.”
The organization is hoping to raise more than $200,000 from the event, Quinn added, which they will use to help fund programs like their first partnership with Major League Baseball to provide trainings for athletes and MLB front-office workers on having an inclusive work place.
“When you’re a team you’re shoulder-to-shoulder, side-by-side and that’s a great way for people to learn that LGBT people are just like everybody else,” Quinn said. “Because in that team it is about your focus, your loyalty, your skill, your grit. It’s not about your sexual orientation. And that’s really a place where that can be made clear.”
Quinn joined the board of Athlete Ally in February after being introduced to its founder, Columbia University volunteer assistant wrestling coach Hudson Taylor through her nephew, Vince, who wrestled against him in New Jersey.
Hudson, who is not gay, put an equal sign sticker on his headgear to show his support for LGBT athletes while wrestling for the University of Maryland.
His experience inspired him to start the organization in 2011.
“What I really think is one of the best things about Athlete Ally is it all started with a young man who was a theater major and existed in one space were people were equal and was an all-American wrestler and existed in another space where people weren’t equal,” Quinn said. “And decided that wasn’t okay. And did a really simple thing: put a sticker on his helmet.”
Tickets to the awards dinner are sold out, but you can make a donation to the organization online.