Adam Rippon becomes first openly gay man to qualify for Winter Olympics

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – When Adam Rippon steps on the ice in PyeongChang, he will be making history regardless of what the competition’s results are.

Rippon earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team last weekend, which will make him the first openly gay male athlete to compete in the Winter Olympics.

“I think now more than ever, as athletes we are given this unique and special platform where we should speak for people who feel that they don’t have a voice,” he said.

FILE – In this Oct. 2, 2016, file photo, from left, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, center, and safety Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Rippon’s platform came with a sense of responsibility for him. He compared coming out to NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to silently protest during the national anthem to force discussion of things that make people uncomfortable.

“I know that Colin Kaepernick, his stance was against police brutality and racial inequality and I can’t relate to that,” he said. “But I can relate to being a gay man and walking into a room or situation where I felt like me being there… People felt uncomfortable with me being gay.”

He said he wouldn’t wish that feeling on anybody, and remaining silent will not solve the problem.

“I think that’s so important, especially in an Olympic sport because you represent not only yourself, not only your family, but you represent an entire country,” Rippon said. “All Americans, no matter what race, religion or sexual orientation.”

Rippon probably won’t be the only gay athlete the U.S. sends to PyeongChang. Gus Kenworthy won a silver medal in freestyle skiing in 2014, and has since come out.

Kenworthy is expected to make his second Olympic team this year, and has said coming out freed him from a lot of mental anguish.