Lots of sports stars support causes they believe in—from cancer research to health and fitness initiatives. But few give up their careers for the sole purpose of getting behind an issue.
Then again, few sports heroes are World Cup winning British rugby star Ben Cohen, who announced his retirement last year instead of renewing a 3-year contract to start a foundation to combat LGBT bullying. Cohen has decided to use his popularity as one of the top scorers in British Union rugby history (he’s often called the David Beckham of Rugby), and a friend to the gay community, to make a difference and stick up for the underdog.
Cohen wasn’t injured, or too old for the game. And as for the cause he’s supporting—Cohen isn’t even gay, although he did lose his dad to brutal violence when he was beaten to death after standing up for an employee who was being attacked.
The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation was started in 2011 to combat bullying, especially the bullying of children who might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender — an issue that, as the NYT points out, has received heightened attention in the last two years after the suicides of several gay teenagers who had been bullied by peers.
“I might play the most violent sport in the world, but I still know right from wrong,” he told The New York Times. “The important thing is to educate people about what bullying does. It’s about understanding.”
He and his foundation will begin selling a line of athletic-style cotton underwear. And, as we all know that sex-sells, the ads will feature Cohen scantly clad in the briefs and T’s.
"The whole thing about the StandUp Foundation is to look at the people who are silent participants in bullying,” said Cohen, “those who stand around watching, those who take pictures. They're the people we really need to affect. That's the movable middle, those swaying with the crowd.”