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|UK rugby stud Ben Cohen to launch American acceptance tour with Atlanta Bucks|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|March 09, 2011 00:41|
Ben Cohen, an England World Cup winner and athletic star, teams up with gay rugby team the Atlanta Bucks to launch his "The Acceptance Tour 2011" to fight homophobia.
Cohen, who is straight, is considered a gay icon and has thousands of gay fans. He is the first straight professional athlete to make LGBT equality his top public priority and has recently spoken out against bullying as part of the "It Gets Better Campaign."
"The Acceptance Tour 2011" is in support of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
“We are incredibly honored that Ben has chosen Atlanta to launch his first US tour,” said Gary Durden, president of Atlanta Bucks RFC, in a statement. “As one of the first gay rugby teams in the US, we have long advocated for more inclusion in the world of sports. Having a champion like Ben Cohen stand up with us and for us is amazing.”
Cohen, who is second in all-time scoring for England, said Atlanta was the perfect place to launch his US tour.
“Atlanta is a city built on equality and respect for diversity, including one of America’s largest and most vibrant LGBT communities,” Cohen said in a statement. “I am honored to launch the tour in Atlanta and with the Bucks.”
The tour comes to Atlanta on May 19 with a series of fundraisers and meet-and-greets to be held through May 22. Tickets to all events go on sale March 28 at www.atlantabucksrugby.org.
Cohen's schedule in Atlanta includes:
• Pub meet-and-greet for fans
“I am passionate about standing up against homophobia and feel compelled to take action. It is time we stand up for what is right and support young people who are being harmed," Cohen said in a statement.
"As athletes, it is not enough just to have strong bodies. We must have strong characters and use our voices to support those who need and deserve it. It is right to stand up for equality and stand up against bullying," he added.
On his website Cohen states, "I believe that every person on this planet has a right to be true to themselves, to love and be loved and to be happy. That’s what we all want. I am in a privileged position to be able to spread some important messages across the globe — and that’s exactly what I am going to do."
Cohen is currently not playing on a team and has said he will retire if he cannot find a team soon. He is married and has twin toddler daughters.
The Atlanta Bucks were founded in 2003 as one of the first IGRAB (International Gay Rugby Association and Board) teams in the US.
The team's mission is "to provide a fraternal environment, without discrimination, for gay and diverse communities, to participate in the sport of rugby."
The Atlanta Bucks won the New York East Coast Invitational in 2006 and the Bingham Cup Bowl Division in Dublin in 2008. The Bingham Cub was named for Mark Bingham, a gay former University of California, Berkeley rugby star who was on board United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11. Bingham was part of a group of passengers who fought against the terrorists to crash the plane into a vacant field in Pennsylvania instead of a Washington, D.C., target.
Top photo: International rugby superstar Ben Cohen (publicity photo)
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