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A gay footballer hit back after a rival called him a homophobic slur on the pitch. Guess whose punishment was more severe?

Emma Powys Maurice April 17, 2020
Football

A college football game turned violent when one of the players used a homophobic slur (Pexels)

A gay college football player was handed a longer suspension than the player who hurled homophobic slurs at him on the pitch after punching him in the face.

Henry Bethell says he experienced homophobia “routinely” when playing football at high school, and the abuse continued when he joined the team at Sarah Lawrence College (SLC) in Bronxville, New York.

He’d previously been called a homophobic slur on the pitch and had witnessed the same happening to a gay teammate. While coaches were aware of it happening, he felt they weren’t doing enough to combat it.

The third time it happened, he wasn’t prepared to let it stand.

It all came to a head during a match against St Joseph’s College. As SLC were winning 3-1 and their goalkeeper saved yet another goal, tensions were running high and an opposing player starting walking “aggressively” towards him.

Bethell hit player who called him a homophobic slur.

“I’m sick of this little faggot,” he said to Bethell, who responded by punching the player in the face, sending him to the ground.

After that, all hell broke loose as the single punch quickly turned into a brawl between the two teams in front of shocked spectators.

“It just happened,” Bethell told Outsports. “I turned around and punched him.

After that I kind of blacked out, like a flight-or-fight response.

“I remember watching him go down and landing on top of him. My keeper jumped on my back because the other team’s bench was coming.”

The fight turned ugly with hair-pulling and scratching, and Bethell and another player from St Joseph’s were promptly ejected from the match. But the one who started it all by calling Bethell a f****t was allowed to continue playing, because officials didn’t hear it.

A video of the incident was later reviewed by The Skyline Conference, which handles Division III athletics in the New York area. They concluded that the player probably used the slur, and gave him a one-game suspension along with several others involved in the fight.

Gay footballer suspended into next season.

Bethell, however, was punished much more severely. He received a three-game suspension, but as the season ended shortly afterwards his suspension will carry on to the next one.

He’s furious that he’s been barred from the sport that was his ‘”refuge”, and is concerned that the incident will make him a target for more harassment over the next three years.

“I want to be able to play. I want to be able to play without having to worry about being called a slur,” he said.

“I want to play without worrying about the consequences of my sexuality. I want to play without being seen as the gay soccer player, or that faggot, in another player’s mind.”

The athletics director of SLC agreed that more needs to be done to address anti-LGBT+ harassment in sports; St. Joseph’s College refused to comment.

More: College football, football, homophobia in sport, homophobic slur, Sarah Lawrence College

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