Mike Chabala: The Equalizer
By Cyd Zeigler
Photographed By Roger Erickson
Styling by Constanze Han
With a soccer ball held aloft like a trophy, Mike Chabala of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo became one of the first professional athletes to pose for the powerful NOH8 campaign. “I think all discrimination is completely wrong. I believe in equality, plain and simple,” says Chabala, which is why he was eager to pose as part of Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley’s collection: 13,000 portraits and growing.
For Chabala, participating was an opportunity to take action against a homophobic culture driving too many kids to take their own lives.
“Kids are committing suicide at 7, 8, 9, 10 years old,” says Chabala. “These kids are too young -- too young to be harassed, regardless of their sexual orientation, religion, gender, race. I think it’s absurd.”
The 27-year-old, who played soccer as a kid in California and during college in Seattle at the University of Washington, says he didn’t have any gay people in his life until he became a professional athlete. In 2006, Chabala was drafted by the Houston Dynamo and moved to Texas, specifically Houston’s Montrose neighborhood, center of the city’s gay life. Chabala jokes that his comfort with homosexuality hasn’t hurt him with women. They love the confidence he has with gay men.
Chabala has never knowingly shared the field with a gay teammate. “I would be supportive,” he says. “It’s the only thing I could do.” But with so much of the public still lined up on both sides of the issue, Chabala thinks most athletes with big public profiles prefer to be stuck in the noncommittal middle. Taking part in NOH8 is one small step to getting off the sidelines of an issue he thinks is important.
“The treatment of gay people isn’t a liberal or conservative issue, it’s a human rights issue.”
To see our full sports ally slide show, click here.