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OutLoud Sports Athlete Showcase: Will Hackner on building a flag football league with Rams, the growth of OutLoud as an organization and more

As part of the Rams' ongoing efforts to celebrate Pride Month, will be showcasing athletes from OutLoud Sports, the nation's original LGBTQAI+ and Allies recreational sports league which was founded in 2007. Since 2022, the Rams have partnered with OutLoud on two flag leagues to expand the impact of football in Los Angeles.

Up first is OutLoud Sports CEO Will Hackner.

WH - 16x9 OutLoud Showcase copy

Will Hackner's involvement with football came about in an unorthodox way.

The OutLoud Sports CEO said that, growing up, the sport was one he heavily associated with bullying. So much so, that "in the 17 years of OutLoud Sports, football was never a sport I wanted to pursue, and actively avoided it."

But after the Rams reached out to him about building a football league together, and also showed support, clear understanding of their community, and desire for more football, it resonated with Hackner.

"And here we are today, four seasons of football a year, an all-gender and she/they program, and have built the largest LGBTQ+ focused football program in Los Angeles," Hackner said. "I've learned a lot more about football as well, played a little, and have a new level of empathy and respect for the sport, and those who are passionate about it. It's been awesome."

OutLoud was founded in 2007 with a simple game of Capture the Flag at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles.

Hackner said that when he first arrived in Los Angeles, the LGBTQ+ community prioritized "partying, aesthetics and social status." Having been raised in Chicago and Washington, D.C., he defined community as a support system of friends, family and neighbors.

Since he wasn't able to find that in his social life, he fulfilled that need by creating OutLoud Sports and putting on that game of Capture the Flag.

"Since then, and 35+ different activities, leagues, tournaments and fundraisers later, I have been overwhelmed that thousands of others felt a similar desire," Hackner said.

For Hackner, the best part of OutLoud Sports is meeting new people.

"To be cliched, the Pride I feel in OutLoud Sports comes from every person who stepped outside their comfort zone and tried something different with their social lives," Hackner said. "It's not easy to step out onto a tennis court, or a baseball field, or a football field, especially in front of new people, as an adult and as a person who identifies as LGBTQ+. I've made my best friends through sports. I've built my entire social life around playing games with my friends. It's been a highlight of my adulthood. Now in my 40s, I still play like a kid, and I am constantly meeting new people who share the same energy."

Knowing how important football is culturally to the United States, the Rams' support of the organization is a big deal, according to Hackner.

"To have an NFL team, who represents millions of fans, notwithstanding being a Super Bowl champion, look at you, not just that you exist, but with engagement and interest, makes every player feel more connected to something much larger than themselves," he said. "It's pretty awesome."

Hackner's inspiration to live his authentic life stems in part from "being afraid to be myself for all my childhood and teenage years."

"Creative, rambunctious, nerdy, smart, I was a blistering amount of energy terrified to be myself," he said. "The moment I came out of the closest released my inner sexual character, but because I was accepted by most of my friends and family, I found I was able to be honest about everything else. So, what inspires me to live my authentic time, always being honest to who I am to everyone."

Hackner said the LGBTQ+ community is ever-evolving and changing. Supercharged evolution can come with confusion and fear, he said, so much so that those in the community don't always understand it. Thus, listening and empathy go a long way in being better allies for the community.

"I think listening and empathy go the furthest, especially when our community is trying to understand who they are, and be accepted for that authenticity, being allowed to freely communicate and being heard matter," Hackner said.

When it comes to celebrating Pride Month, Hackner mentioned celebrating oneself, and for allies, to think beyond traditional symbols commonly associated with it.

"Pride is meant for the LGBTQ+ community, but I think there is a little queer in everyone," he said. "Pride is about celebrating that inner you, that angry you, that silly you, that active you, that depressed you, that changing you, that fearful you, that in love you. It's about celebrating yourself as joyously as you can. But for our allies, tone down the rainbows. Pride is a lot more."

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