University Athletes Get Naked to Fight Homophobia

Sales from their annual calendar go toward charity Sports Allies.
(Photo: Warwick Rowers/Facebook)
Aug 22, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

When the competitive season ends for the University of Warwick’s rowing team, they enjoy their time off. The teammates sip iced tea by a twinkling swimming pool, play croquet, and frolic in lush green meadows—all while naked, of course.

The Warwick Rowers of Coventry, England, stripped down for their annual fund-raising calendar, and they offered their fans a peek at new images from the upcoming 2016 calendar this week.

A portion of the proceeds goes to a charity they developed last year. Sports Allies works to combat homophobia through outreach programs in local schools.

The group created its first calendar in 2009 to help raise funds for the rowing program itself—and some of the money still supports club maintenance. But the popularity of a calendar full of muscular, naked university students allowed them to use the platform to help make sports a welcoming environment for all.

(Photo: Warwick Rowers/Facebook)

Despite a handful of professional athletes publically announcing that they are gay, sports remain rife with homophobia. School athletics can be particularly daunting for gay and lesbian students. A 2015 international study found that 73 percent of participants felt youth sports were not safe for LGBT athletes. More than half of gay men said they felt unwelcome, and 84 percent noted that homophobic slurs were common.

The calendar does more than just raise money for LGBT outreach. It also challenges hetero-normative stereotypes that some male athletes feel they must follow in order to be accepted by their teammates.

“We’re getting naked to make a point,” rower Tristan Edwards told MTV News. “We don’t care who looks at us, regardless of sexuality or gender. We’re also trying to show that sport shouldn’t be a place for enforced gender stereotypes, but instead that the intimacy and openness we share as a team is something positive to be encouraged in all walks of life.”

(Photo: Warwick Rowers/Instagram)