Seahawks punter Jon Ryan to lead hometown Regina's Pride parade
Saskatchewan native hopes to shed light on LGBTQ community's involvement in sport
In an attempt to try to kick some of the stereotypes and homophobia that exists within sport, Regina Pride has named Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan one of two grand marshals to lead this year's Pride parade on June 16.
As grand marshal Ryan will lead the parade as it snakes through downtown Regina streets alongside members of AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan, who are being highlighted for their work in the community.
"We had been trying to get in touch with Jon for a little over a year now so we're thrilled to finally have this happen," said Dan Shier, co-chair of Regina Pride.
Ryan was born and raised in Regina where he played high school and university football. He then went on to play for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before making his way to the NFL — first with the Green Bay Packers and then Seattle, where he's played for the Seahawks since 2008.
Making a statement
Shier admits sports have been somewhat overlooked by the Pride committee, which was a big factor in asking Ryan to be a grand marshal this year.
"Not only do we need LGBT athletes represented in sports we also need to show people their colleagues, teammates, family and friends are also there to stand beside them," Shier said. "Jon's connection to Regina and being a public figure in the world of professional sports is a big reason why we wanted [him] to do this."
The closest Regina Pride has ever come to having a sports figure be part of the parade was when the Saskatchewan Roughriders mascot, Gainer the Gopher, marched along with the group.
"It's time to showcase something we feel is an important issue," Shier said.
Taking a stand
Shier said the deciding factor that led Regina Pride to invite Ryan was his response in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting in 2016.
The shooting at a gay nightclub that left 50 people dead and another 53 injured was a pivotal moment on social media for Ryan, who took to Twitter and Instagram to share his heartbreak over the attack.
After his initial tweet of support, Ryan was inundated with hate-filled and homophobic responses. He decided to shut down his account because of it.
"The people that were murdered that day happened to be gay and people thought it was okay and thought very awful things," Ryan said.
"It was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen on my Twitter and my Instagram and I just decided I wasn't going to let my page breed hate."
Ryan has reactivated his accounts and has been a strong voice of support for the LGBT community since then.
And this year it will culminate in in the football-crazed city of Regina where he grew up, with him leading the 29th edition of the annual Pride parade.