The leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband has sent a message of support to recently out gay footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger as he came out as gay earlier today.
He tweeted this evening of the “bravery” and “courage” Hitzlsperger showed by coming out, saying he set an example for young people.
Such admiration for the bravery of @ThomasHitzl. His courage sends a message to young people: sport is for anyone, regardless of sexuality.
— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) January 8, 2014
Minister for Sport and Equalities Helen Grant said to PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s great news that Thomas Hitzlsperger has had the courage to come out today. While we have made great progress in shifting attitudes towards the gay community, there are still many people who have hidden or who are still hiding their sexuality, through fear of homophobia. There is still more we can all do to help tackle homophobia in sport.”
High-profile athletes from other sports have openly discussed their sexuality in recent years, with Olympic diver Tom Daley revealing in December he was in a relationship with a man.
But Hitzlsperger is only the fourth footballer to do so publicly.
There are currently no known openly gay footballers in the English and Scottish professional leagues.
He later reversed his decision to quit the game and signed for LA Galaxy – but as of yet Rogers has no plans to return to the English league.
Before Rogers’ revelation, only two footballers had publicly said they were gay.
Justin Fashanu was the first professional footballer in Britain to come out, in 1990, before he took his own life eight years later, aged 37.