Monday, 30 March 2015

Are gay athletes who come out heroes?

Surely the short answer should really be no, because what has anyone's sexual preference got to do with being an athlete and who’s business is it anyway? If only that was the norm. Of course, it is infinitely more complicated than that. Tom Daley sums this up beautifully in his ’there’s something I would like to say' youtube clip (view it HERE) by saying that ‘in an ideal world I wouldn’t be making this video because it shouldn’t matter’ I am sure that Daley is proud that his youtube outing sparked confidence in other athletes who have since followed his lead.

I am specifically referring to England Women’s football team captain and Arsenal Ladies defender Casey Stoney, who cited the positive response Daley received to his statement, as one of the instigators behind her coming out. However, Stoney’s ‘revelation’ (for want of a better word) means that she is the ‘most high profile active gay footballer in England’ (READ FULL ARTICLE HERE) In the same interview Stoney also states that in female football 'that homosexuality is more accepted in the women's game than the men's game’ although sadly no further expansion on why this might be is given. 

The Premier league is conceivably Britain’s most cherished and celebrated sports arena, that evokes the most incredible demonstrations of passion and devotion that is passed down through families like an infallible blood line. This makes the silence from Stoney’s male counterparts in the premier league positively deafening. I’m guessing this might have something to do with what the American press has recently referred to as male ‘locker room’ culture? Something that I heard about for the first time when viewing Dale Hansen’s incredible response to NFL Draft Prospect Michael Sam coming out, which I touched on briefly last week (HERE). However, it is either Americans or players in America who are leading the way for gay men in sport. 

I’ve already mentioned Michael Sam, who's prominence is down to the fact he has come out at arguably the most pivotal time of his career. Unlike ex Aston Villa midfielder, Thomas Hitzlsperger, who chose to wait until his retirement before coming out. In THIS interview he states that he considered coming out earlier 'but he decided against doing so because he felt the resulting scrutiny on him might have proved too much of a distraction from on-pitch matters

Secondly ex-Leeds player Robbie Rogers, not only came out around the same time as Daley, but started the Beyond "it" anti-discriminatory initiative  a campaign urging more sports people to do the same. Rogers retired from Premier league football last year after injury, however has since returned to play for LA Galaxy. So what are they doing in America that’s inciting this confidence and more importantly why isn’t it happening in the UK & Europe? Rogers recently revealed, despite the support of his former club Leeds of his campaign, that he is yet to be contacted by a single British male premier league player. Am I naive to say it is archaic for the most fervent of British institutions, responsible for inspiring the hopes and dreams of so many young men, not to take a stand? Surely it is their duty to remove whatever homophobic obstacles are currently blocking them from being a progressive linchpin in the hearts and minds of all male footballers, both gay and straight?

Who is going to remind FIFA that before the giant pay-packets and sponsorship deals, sport is a haven, a place you can escape to, a brief pocketful of enjoyment whether you’re playing or just commentating from your spot on the sofa. The bliss of a winning football team radiates so thickly it virtually condensates stadium interiors. Surely this fact alone should wipe out any homophobia or racism, with one sweep of the hand? Not yet, it would seem, however it does feel like finally there are brave individuals setting a courageous precedent (Daley, Stoney, Rogers, Hitzlsperger & Sam) so it has only got to be a matter of time before those Premier league players follow suit. 

Of course it could be worse, you could play football for a country where homosexuality is just plain illegal, like Qatar. God forbid they ever host a world cup.