Sport

Gay football captain called a ‘f****t’ by opponent. His teammates decided to ’embarrass’ the bigot

Emma Powys Maurice October 10, 2021
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Homophobia in football

A homophobic slur on the pitch prompted a team to rally round their captain (Stock image: Envato)

When an out gay football captain was called a homophobic slur on the pitch, it easily could’ve gone unnoticed – but his teammates refused to let it slide.

Couper Gunn, captain of the Colby-Sawyer College’s Chargers, was leading his team in an away game against the Rivier University Raiders on 22 September.

At first it was just a regular college football game, until one of the opponents approached the captain and sneered at the rainbow armband he was wearing. “Get that f****t armband off of you,” he told him.

According to Outsports, it was confirmed after the match that the player knew Gunn was gay. Gunn was floored by the slur, and so were his teammates, who’d heard the comment from the sidelines.

“The first real emotion was just fury at the audacity of someone using a homophobic slur like that,” said Lucas Boetsch, one of Gunn’s co-captains on the team. “It was outrageous to us.”

Gunn pushed through the shock and continued playing, but at halftime he was fighting back tears in the locker room.

“I was upset I’d been called that, but I was more upset because I was thinking about all the queer kids who that kid comes into contact with every day,” he said.

“He perpetuates that, even if he didn’t mean it, using the F word. And I was just so sad that someone like that exists, who would use that language. I was present with how unsafe and how unwelcome that made me feel for a few minutes.”

The coach could see how much the confrontation had impacted him. “Look at me,” Gunn remembered his coach saying to him. “You’re a very brave man. You’re a strong man.”

Gunn can’t remember the halftime talk that came next, but his teammates were listening. The other team were coming after one of their brothers, the coach told them, and they needed to show Rivier what that meant to all of them.

The Chargers didn’t need to be told twice. They immediately rallied round their captain before storming back onto the pitch to finish the game.

At the time it was tied 0-0 and neither team had scored. When play resumed, “I was completely off my game to start the second half,” Gunn recalled. But he wasn’t out there alone.

“When my teammates came in, immediately to start the second half, they brought the energy and made it easier for me to get my head back into the game.”

Gunn’s team broke the game wide open, and less than 15 minutes later the Colby-Sawyer Chargers would be up 5-0 on the Rivier Raiders, earning their first win of the football season.

“We went on to beat them, 5-0, and embarrass them at their fields under their lights in front of their home fans,” Gunn said.

He recounted their incredible victory on TikTok in a video captioned “Love always wins”. It’s received over 40,000 views.

@cmaxxgLove always wins #gayfootballer #queer #alphabetmafia♬ original sound – Coup

“I felt incredibly supported by my coach and my teammates, and I wanted to share that with you guys because I don’t think there are enough stories in sports about things like this,” he said.

His teammates threw the praise straight back. “I was very proud of Couper in the way he responded,” Boetsch told Outsports. “You could tell he was visibly upset. He had a couple words with the opponent, and then he spoke to the referee afterward. And then the game went on.

“But the part I’m most proud of is that he didn’t retaliate. He had the opportunity to lay the kid out, but he didn’t. He let the game talk.”

Rivier athletic director Joanne Merrill addressed the football match in a statement. “Rivier takes any negative speech or actions seriously and is in all ways against them,” she said.

“We have taken this incident very seriously and have handled it in a way we view as appropriate. We regret that it happened and it in no way reflects what we are about and what we try to model.”

Related topics: gay footballers

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