Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo, a midfielder for Adelaide United, came out as gay over social media early Wednesday to become the only men's top-level soccer player to be publicly out.
"I'm a footballer and I'm gay," the 21-year-old athlete said in an emotional Twitter video reading his coming-out story. "I have been fighting my sexuality for six years now and I am glad I can put that to rest. Growing up I always felt the need to hide myself because I was ashamed. Ashamed I would never be able to do what I loved and be gay. Being a closeted gay footballer, I've had to learn to mask my feelings in order to fit the mould of a professional footballer. ...Growing up being gay and playing football were just two worlds that hadn't crossed paths before."
"All I want to do is play football and be treated equally."
Cavallo's international coming out follows a wave in American sports over the past four months that's seen three publicly gay athletes out in the top four professional sports – Carl Nassib (NFL), Luke Prokop (NHL minors) and Bryan Ruby (pro baseball minors).
Cavallo's team, Adelaide United is in the top Australian soccer league, A-League Men. The league tweeted its support of Cavallo and fellow out Australian soccer player Andy Brennan.
Collin Martin, now a midfielder for the San Diego Loyal, came out as gay in 2018 as a member of Minnesota United FC. At the time, Martin was the only out men's professional athlete. Robbie Rogers, who played for the LA Galaxy and U.S. national team, became the first openly gay professional soccer player in 2013 before he permanently retired in 2017.
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"I know there are other players living in silence," Cavallo wrote on Twitter. "I want to help change this, to show that everyone ... deserves the right to be their authentic self. ...It's astonishing to know that there are currently no gay professional footballers who are out and actively playing, not only in Australia, but around the world. "Hopefully this will change in the near future. I want to ... let other players in my situation feel that they're not alone."
Adelaide United coach Carl Veart said in a statement that Cavallo has "shown incredible courage to be one of very few professional sportsmen to be this brave. I have nothing but admiration and support for him, as do all the players and coaching staff."
"I want all my players to feel comfortable and happy being their own person, on and off the park. For Josh to be the best he can be and get the most out of his career, he needs the freedom to be himself and I fully support him."
A recent study by the University of Winchester, Sports Equality Foundation and Outsports revealed that more than 95% of openly gay athletes (in high school through college) have their teammates respond positively or neutral once they come out. But professional male sports – where athletes are available to be giant role models – has been much more antiquated, meaning Cavallo's coming out can help to evoke widespread change.
Prokop told USA TODAY this month: "I believe that professional sports are becoming more player-driven leagues. That will outweigh any (homophobia) that could exist. ...hopefully there will be a trickle-up to the older generation."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Australian pro soccer player Josh Cavallo comes out as gay on Twitter