Nike support Ben Cohen’s StandUp Foundation

Ben Cohen has said that Nike’s support of his┬áStandUp Foundation will help tackle homophobia in sport.

The former England rugby union international founded the organisation, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying, with a strong focus on the LGBT community.

Ben Cohen shares photoshoot behind-the-scenes on Facebook.“While I was playing rugby, I realised that I had a gay following,” Cohen told the new issue of┬áMetro Source, recalling how he had decided to offer something in return. “To be able to say, ‘Look guys, there’s more to me than – and I can’t believe I’m saying it – looks and a hairy chest’.”

With a rise in suicide among gay teenagers, the 33-year-old realised that he wanted to speak out: “I didn’t do it to get any awards. I did it because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to stop people killing themselves because of bullying, and I wanted to eradicate homophobia in sport. And ultimately, I want to bring my kids into a better world.”

Working on the StandUp Foundation, which will host a UK launch event next month, Cohen said that he reached the decision to retire from professional rugby in order to give his new project “100% and create a brand to run alongside the foundation”.

Explaining that he wanted it to have “longevity to outlive [him]”, he added: “We wanted to create [something] like Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong or Bono’s (RED).”

Speaking about his partnership with Nike, he told the magazine: “Nike wants to be seen [fighting] homophobia. They’re using me and the foundation to do that, which is fantastic, and I’m incredibly honoured. Nike is huge and powerful, especially within sports. So, they’ll make sure they get their athletes’ support in the cause and in the issues of being fair.”

Ben Cohen covers Metro Source magazine

With the release of his underwear line approaching and an annual calendar to shoot, the father-of-two admitted that he has to prepare himself for photoshoots.

“I just go in and be me. I’m a down-to-earth guy, and I just try to [move] on with getting the photoshoot done half the time,” he said.

“For example, we’ve got an underwear line launching [this] spring; so I know I’m going to be in underwear. You have to understand what you’re doing, and it has to be done tastefully.”

Cohen added: “If it wasn’t for the gay community finding me attractive in the first place, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do this.”