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Rugby star and gay icon Ben Cohen selects Atlanta as home for his StandUp Foundation

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Atlanta will be the home for Ben Cohen's StandUp Foundation as well as his StandUp brand, it was announced today.

Cohen, the hunky — and straight — rugby star (now retired) from England, has been in Atlanta this week as part of his “Acceptance Tour 2011” to bring awareness about bullying against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people and to find ways to stop it.


“I have a big following, I have a voice, I want to use it,” he said. “I’m in a privileged position and I want to set a precedent. Being gay is not a disease, it’s not a choice," he told the GA Voice in a recent interview.

Making Atlanta the home base for his foundation was a simple choice, Cohen said in statement released late Friday. Because Atlanta has been dubbed in the past as the “gayest city” in America by The Advocate and is home to the civil rights movement, the city "too busy to hate" was the best place.

“I can think of no better place to base our operations and make the differences we intend to make,” Cohen said.

Cohen said he is also the first straight athlete to focus his energy on LGBT causes and anti-bullying measures.

“The Foundation is believed to be the world’s first organization dedicated solely to the cause of anti-bullying, wherever and to whomever it occurs,” states a press release from the StandUp Foundation.

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Homophobia still accepted in pro sports?

International rugby superstar Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen is a ruggedly handsome man who is not afraid to pose shirtless — thrilling many gay men around the world who may not know anything about rugby, but do admire a beautiful body.

Cohen, a U.K. rugby champion who is straight, married and has twin daughters, said he has no qualms with being a “gay icon.”

“That’s fine by me,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Northamptonshire, England.

But Cohen wants to use his notoriety in a way other professional athletes have not. His main cause off the pitch is helping LGBT youth, as well as eliminating homophobia from athletics.

“I’ve never seen a straight athlete do this before. I’m really passionate about this,” he said.

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Podcast: Homophobia in sports

GA Voice editor Laura Douglas-Brown was featured on AM 1690 | The Voice of the Arts this week in a new bi-weekly interview segment highlighting upcoming arts and entertainment events and LGBT community news featured in our print issues.

In this week's segment, Laura discusses homophobia in sports, rugby star Ben Cohen's Acceptance Tour, where to buy your chicken sandwiches if you're boycotting Chick-fil-A and upcoming Memorial Day weekend events.

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Run for charity

The Atlanta Bucks host the annual 'Purple Dress Run' today