Kobe Bryant’s death inspires campaign against homophobia in Brazilian football

Emma Powys Maurice January 31, 2020
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Kobe Bryant

Bryant proudly wore the no. 24 shirt - a number associated with homosexuality in Brazil (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Kobe Bryant’s tragic death in a helicopter crash last week has inspired Brazilian football players to take a stand against homophobia.

Bryant was considered one of the best players in National Basketball Association (NBA) history, and was also known within the LGBT+ community as a powerful ally.

Before he retired he wore the No 24 shirt for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team – a number that carries a lot of stigma in Brazil for its association with gay men.

It comes from Jogo do bicho (‘The animal game’), a popular and illegal lottery in Brazil run by the mob. Each of the numbers up to 25 are represented by an animal, with the number 24 being a deer. Deers have long been associated with homosexuality in Brazilian culture and ‘veado’, the Portuguese word for deer, is also a homophobic slur.

Because of this the number 24 a widespread joke in the country, eliciting ridicule and innuendoes. It’s the one number Brazilian soccer players don’t want to wear for fear of teasing and abuse.

Now, in Kobe Bryant’s name, thefootball magazine Corner started campaigns to end the stigma and take back the number 24. It began with the hashtag #PedeA24 – or Ask for 24 – with pictures of different club shirts bearing the number.

The campaign picked up speed when it got the backing of several of Brazil’s best-known journalists, with one tweeting: “More than 700 professional players and no one has the courage to wear a certain shirt.”

On Friday the first division football club Bahia announced its players will wear the 24 shirt to show there is no shame.

“Football can be a channel to accentuate the worst of our society, such as racism, aggression, violence and intolerance, but it can also be used in different ways, for culture, affection, sensibility and to improve human relations,” Guilherme Bellintani, the president of the professional soccer club Esporte Clube Bahia, told Reuters.

“We think that clubs have to choose whether they will be channels for love or for hate. We choose love.”

Kobe would be proud.





More: Bahia, Brazil, football, homophobia in football, kobe bryant

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