The decision of 25-year-old former Leeds United football player Robbie Rogers, to come out last week, has been commended by gay rights activists, who have described this as a “tipping point” for sports.
Robbie Rogers came out as gay, and said that he has decided to quit football by writing on the homepage of his website. The American international reflected on his life’s dreams and goals, and said that keeping “secrets can cause internal damage”.
Brian Ellner of Athletes Ally, which campaigns against homophobia and transphobia in sports, told Reuters: “Robbie Rogers demonstrated enormous courage coming out and it’s great to see the overwhelming positive response from other players around the sport.”
He continued: “It’s clear that the culture of sports in transforming rapidly. We’re at a tipping point.”
In the US there is currently no openly gay player in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association or National Hockey League.
Patrick Burke, co-founder of the group You Can Play, an anti-homophobia in sports campaign group, said he thought gay players in top American leagues would start to come out.
“I think we have hit the turning point in the sports world for sure. The majority of professional athletes are supportive and do not care if one of their team mates or opponents is gay, it makes no difference to them,” Burke said.
The subject of coming out, and homophobia in sport has been globally topical of late, particularly in the US, which recently held its Super Bowl annual championship game.
San Francisco 49ers player who took part in the Super Bowl, Chris Culliver, said there were no gay players on his team, and if there were, they wouldn’t be welcome. He was heavily criticised and given sensitivity training.
He said: “I’d say 50 percent of [NFL players] think like Culliver, 25 percent of the people think like me, 25 percent don’t necessarily agree with all the things I agree with but they’re accepting,” he said.
Last week US basketball star Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, was commended for voicing his disapproval at a fan’s use of the word “gay” as an insult. He had previously been fined $100,000 for using a homophobic slur against a referee.
West Ham footballer Matt Jarvis, appeared on the cover of Attitude magazine in January, and gave an interview saying gay footballers should come out, that they would be supported, and that they might even play better if they did.