Monday, May 06, 2013

Eight UK Footballers Say "we're gay" But Fear Coming Out

Robbie Rogers left Leeds United by mutual consent after declaring that he was gay.
As noted in prior posts, the NFL in America at times looks like a den of homophobes.   But the homophobia isn't limited to America or American football.  Football in the United Kingdom - soccer in this country - isn't without its own anti-gay atmosphere.  As The Guardian reports, there are at least eight (8) pro footballers in top teams in the UK who have confidentially admitted to being gay but who are too afraid of the potential blow back to come out.  As one who was closeted at work for years and then suffered career wise when I came out, I do understand their very real fears.  It is so sad that individuals still suffer from anti-gay bigotry that ultimately traces back to fear and ignorance based religious belief.  Here are highlights from The Guardian article:

At least eight professional footballers have revealed to colleagues that they are gay, but have refused to go public because they fear a backlash from fans.

This latest evidence that British football remains a homophobic environment comes after Jason Collins, a high-profile American basketball star, became the first player from a US professional sports league to reveal that he was gay.

In Britain, no professional footballer has come out and continued his career since Justin Fashanu in 1990. He stopped playing in 1994, but hanged himself four years later, aged 37. Fashanu had said that he had not been prepared for the backlash that followed his disclosure, and that his football career suffered "heavy damage" as a consequence.

Earlier this year, Robbie Rogers, an American playing for Leeds United, left the club by "mutual consent" after announcing that he was gay. Rogers, 25, said at the time that remaining in football after declaring that you were gay was "impossible". Last week it emerged that he had left England and was training with the Los Angeles Galaxy football team in the US.

Gay campaigners told the Observer that Clarke Carlisle, chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, had revealed that eight players had approached him to disclose that they were gay. Seven told him that the reason they would not reveal their sexual orientation publicly was not the reaction from the dressing room or club, but the potential reaction from the media and supporters.

The issue of homophobia within football is gradually gaining political momentum, with Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, describing the absence of openly gay professional footballers in the UK as "outrageous", while two weeks ago MPs tabled a parliamentary debate calling on clubs, supporters and football authorities to eradicate homophobic chanting.

Stonewall, the gay charity, has conducted research finding that 60% of supporters believe that anti-gay abuse from fans dissuades players from coming out. The organisation is working closely with the FA and PFA as part of the Kick it Out campaign to rid the game of homophobia. Andrew Wasley of Stonewall said: "There are signs that things are getting much better – at clubs such as West Ham and Arsenal in particular. But there are also gay people who are worried about what to do. The whole game needs to be much more open."

Having been totally "out"  for over nine years socially and professionally, I cannot imagine going back in the closet.  It wastes so much energy and wears one down.   And not surprisingly, studies have shown that LGBT individuals are far more productive when not in the closet and living in fear of discovery.

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