Seahawks punter Jon Ryan steps aside as Regina Pride's grand marshal

The Seattle Seahawks' Jon Ryan has decided to withdraw as grand marshal of Regina's Pride parade, saying the decision came after much thought and conversation with his wife and friends in the LGBT community.

"The negativity it's bringing is the opposite of what pride stands for and as an ally, I want to step aside so that the community has someone they all agree on in the role," he wrote in an email shared with CBC News.  

Ryan said he was incredibly honoured to be asked and will continue to stand up for equality and for the LGBT community, writing, "nothing about that has or ever will change."

Some had raised concerns about Ryan leading the June 16 parade, rather than a member of the LGBT community. Others also felt the choice of a NFL athlete as a marshal overshadowed the work of AIDS Program South Saskatchewan (APSS), the parade's second grand marshal.

Pride organizers released a statement acknowledging "pain and hurt was caused by this decision," inviting LGBT athletes to join as a Pride in Sports marshal. The statement also noted the parade would lead with APSS and the Pride in Sports marshal, and would end with Queen City Pride, members of the community and Ryan.   

Allies needed, say others

Others Regina residents, however, were supportive of the choice of Ryan as parade marshal, with people like Darlene Mitchell pointing to the importance of allies.

Mitchell came out as gay in 1998, at the age of 28.

"Back then, it was a whole different time, like there was no allies. Generations before me had zero allies," she said. "I remember being terrified to even tell one of my clients that I had made this lifestyle change."

Darlene Mitchell says support from allies of the LGBT community, like Ryan, has been important in paving the way for her acceptance. (Facebook/Darlene Mitchell)

But the support of her friends outside of the LGBT community through the years has been really important in helping her feel safe and welcomed.

"Without their help of saying . . . 'That's fine, that's good, you're good the way you are,' I wouldn't feel the freedom I have now, which is complete freedom."

Mitchell said having someone of Ryan's stature and with his platform to speak out against homophobia was "awesome," questioning, "Why would we turn him away?"

The voice of these allies is essential to Pride, she said, adding, "It's amazing, it's good, it's necessary."

Pride organizers did not respond to calls for comment on Ryan's decision to step down as grand marshal.

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