Rapinoe told the magazine she has been dating her girlfriend, an Australian soccer player, for three years. However, she feels sport will need to be less homophobic to allow fellow athletes to feel comfortable enough to discuss their sexuality.
“I feel like sports in general are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out…I feel everyone is really craving [for] people to come out. People want — they need — to see that there are people like me playing soccer for the good ol’ U.S. of A.”
Rapinoe, 26, has won 52 caps for the US national side, scoring 12 goals. The winger, who plays her club football for the Seattle Sounders, was part of the squad that finished second at the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
Meanwhile, in Australia, Adelaide United player Antony Golec was suspended for one game, given a two match suspended ban, and forced to undergo counselling for directing homophobic abuse at an official over the micro-blogging site.
Have the FA got their approach to this problem right? Is it even a problem at all? Fill in the poll below and let us know what you think in the comments.
Professor Eric Anderson is an American sociologist at the University of Winchester. He is known for his research on sexualities and masculinities studies, particularly concerning sport and relationships. He believes that due to a switch in the social paradigm homophobia in sport is on the decline. He has written ten books, many of them award winners and best sellers and also regularly contributes to OutSports.com. Gay Sports Blog’s Sophia Heath caught up with him to hear his views on the decline of homophobia, why there are no out professional footballers and the impact of the Olympics.
Why do you believe that homophobia in sport is on the decline?
The effect which is happening in sport is the result of a much larger cultural shift and an overall decline in homophobia. Research has shown that since 1993 there has been an overall decline in homophobia and a complete change in social attitude. There can be a thousand different factors that you can attribute to this. The big one is the internet. Facebook now asks for your sexual orientation, Myspace asks you for your sexual orientation it is great. Men start to access porn at the age of 11 – whether by accident or on purpose they come across gay porn and this desensitises them. It’s got rid of that ‘oh my god it’s disgusting factor’ and ‘it’s just like so that happens.’ This is combined with other factors such as better representation, politics and of course the decline of religion to cause this social shift.
Why do you think that so far a professional footballer has not come out in the UK?
I think this is the red hearing of the whole homophobia in sport issue. So what? Who actually cares? There are tens and millions of youth and university athletes who are not experiencing homophobia. Compare this to what- a thousand professional athletes it is not that significant.
Take football there are roughly 1,500 top professional footballers. Three percent of males are gay and there is evidence to show that this is even lower at top level sport so it’s probably more like 1%- so we are talking about 15 guys here! It’s just the media likes to use it as a way of looking at homophobia in sport. It doesn’t take away from the overall positive
We are too focused on the professional level. We can’t use this small group of men as a gauge for society as a whole. That’s not what counts.
What about the argument that it is a bad commercial decision to be an out athlete?
Well there is a load of empirical evidence to show that is not true. Look at Gareth Thomas he has got a movie coming out! It’s not the case that sponsors are going to walk away because an athlete comes out it’s actually quite the opposite. Companies are happy to have gay representatives… People aren’t going to take a pair of sneakers back because the company supports someone who is gay.
So why do you think there is evidence of agents telling players not to come out?
There are agents who have said that but they are part of the old guard, they are the old school guys. It’s not the athletes who are homophobic any more it is the old coaches or athletic committee. These guys have had sporting careers and progressed up through the administration side and still know the old principles. When I interviewed Leigh Steinberg he said if his players came out they wouldn’t get professional endorsements. When I pointed out a few obvious examples he was like “oh”. It’s just a narrative for the media.
How do you think America compares to the UK in terms of homophobia in sport?
America has got what is known as a cultural lag behind the UK. Whatever is happening in the UK is paralleled in the US but there is a delay. I am doing research into it and its very hard to gauge but I I’m going to say the US is roughly a decade behind.
What effect do you think the Olympics coming to London will have on homophobia in sport?
It is a huge opportunity but it depends on how the media see it. You don’t need 100 gay athletes you just need one who the media covers. It’s all about the media coverage. I think there was an opportunity missed when Mathew Mitcham won gold in Australia. Obviously the gay press cover it but its just not really news for the mainstream press. It’s the same story athlete worries about coming out, athlete comes out, athlete actually accepted for coming out. There not a real story there.
I saw a kid come out to his running team. People used to say “oh my god”. He told his coach and he was just like “ok.” He told another team mate he was just like “Well done you came out.” There were no questions. People just don’t have those questions anymore. These kids have plenty of gay friends and it’s just not an issue. They have either already asked the questions they needed to ask or the internet will have the answers. He has boyfriend now and it is on Facebook.
The media just doesn’t really have the interest. You need a superstar to come out and then there will be a story again.
For more information on Professor Eric Anderson’s research please click here.
Former England International Sol Campbell announced his retirement yesterday due to injury after a 20-year career playing for Tottenham, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Notts County and Portsmouth.
Although the married footballer constantly denied rumours surrounding his sexuality, this did not stop Campbell being the target of homophobic abuse – an issue previously covered by GSB. In fact, his brother John was jailed in 2005 for assaulting a man who questioned the 37 year-old’s sexuality.
Down to ten men after goalkeeper Jens Lehman was sent off early in the first half, it seemed only a matter of time before a Barcelona side featuring the likes of Ronaldinho, Deco and Samuel E’to tore Arsenal apart in the 2006 Champions League Final. Campbell was charged with marshalling the Gunners’ defence to keep Frank Rijkaard’s men at bay.
A rare attack on the Barcelona goal resulted in a free-kick in a dangerous area for the men from north London. Thierry Henry whipped the ball across the box, and Sol’s head did the rest, putting his side ahead against the run of play. Two late Barca goals broke Gunners’ hearts, but for a moment Campbell had Arsenal fans believing.
Sol made his England debut in May 1996, as a substitute in the friendly against Hungary. A member of Terry Venables’ Euro 96 squad, Campbell was also selected for international duty at France 98, Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004 and Germany 2006 – becoming the first England player to be picked for six consecutive major international tournaments.
Sol’s defining moment in an England shirt came in the 1998 World Cup second-round match against Argentina. After David Beckham’s sending off England were forced to defend with ten men. But in injury time, Campbell headed what he thought was the winning goal, celebrated like he had won the World Cup, only to see his effort had been disallowed and Argentina had restarted play quickly and were attacking David Seaman’s goal. England later went out on penalties – but those 30 seconds summed up perfectly the experience of being an England fan.
Four years later, Campbell got his one and only England goal – netting in England’s 1-1 draw with Sweden in the 2002 World Cup. He was named in Fifa’s team of the tournament – recognising the best performances at the finals.
Captaining Portsmouth to FA Cup glory
After leaving Arsenal in 2006, Campbell signed a two-year deal with Portsmouth, then managed by Harry Redknapp. His finest hour in a Pompey shirt came when he captained the side in their FA Cup Final Victory over Cardiff in 2008, bringing european football, and matches against the likes of AC Milan to Fratton Park for the first time.
In the 2003/2004 season, Arsenal won the Premier League title. Their record: played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost 0 – as they became the first team since the league was established in 1992 to go an entire season unbeaten. The Gunners owed a huge debt to the centre-back partnership Campbell established with Kolo Toure as they conceded just 26 goals all season. For his efforts, Campbell was named in the PFA team of the year.
Ignoring the abuse
In Summer 2001, Spurs captain Sol Campbell announced his decision to leave White Hart Lane at the end of his contract, making the short journey to Highbury to sign for north London rivals Arsenal on a free transfer. Campbell’s decision incensed Tottenham fans who labelled him a “judas”. The two clubs’ fixture at White Hart Lane became one of the early talking points of the 2001-2002 season. Campbell was booed by Tottenham fans from the moment he set foot on the pitch to warm-up, to the final whistle. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, but Campbell’s decision to join the Gunners was vindicated as they went on to win a League and FA Cup double in his first season at the club.
During the course of the season, 3,089 fans were arrested at, or outside, games taking place in the Premier League, Football League and Conference. There had been 302 more arrests in the 2009/10 season.
Although the total number of arrests fell, the number of arrests for “racist or indecent chanting” rose from 31 in 2009/10, to 43 in 2010/11 – an increase of 28 per cent.
The Home Office statistics reveal the number of arrests per club, which are included on the map below.
No arrests were made among fans from 91 of the 116 clubs included in the study.
Among Premier League sides, Aston Villa and Bolton Wanderers both led the number of arrests, with four a piece.
But the club which saw the most fans arrested was Barnet, with eight fans arrested for their chants during 2009/10 season. But does this mean that fans of the Underhill club are more intolerant? Or are the Bees doing more to tackle the problem?
Our policy has always been a zero-tolerance approach to any racist behaviour and, as the figures show, this policy has clearly worked. By staying vigilant and preserving the family values we have at the club, we make sure that anyone who visits Underhill has a safe and enjoyable match day experience.
Barnet chairman Tony Kleanthous added:
“We do our best to appropriately deal with reporting incidents of racist or indecent chanting at Underhill. This proactive approach is crucial to making every visit to Underhill enjoyable for everyone, results aside. We respect our club and fans too much to have its name tarnished; we will continue to strive to uphold the values of a community football club- that welcomes everyone and everyone is treated equally.”
Continuing from our last post (wordpress bug ahoy!), here are some more thoughts on Monday’s programme:
John Fashanu did not come across well in this programme and while he talked about “mistakes” at no point did he admit he had done anything wrong and nor did he apologise. To quote FCF.co.uk:
“[Fashanu’s] disgraceful interview in the Sun, ‘My Gay Brother Is An Outcast’, legitimised alienating and cutting off gay family members and made it seem not only acceptable, but the normal, done thing. It’s not an exaggeration to state that that interview was one of the worst setbacks for the gay rights movement in Britain in the past thirty years.”
Watch the interviews with Fashanu using the links below:
Everyone’s favourite Morrissey-loving, Nietzsche-quoting rebel was by far the most open and eloquent interviewee from the world of football to appear on the programme.
“There is no doubt in my mind that in the next 10 years we have an openly gay footballer. My only fear is that certain managers and individuals within the game will discriminate against people. These archaic figures think if they had a gay footballer, they would have all kinds of shenanigans going on in the dressing room. That’s not the case.”
Joey Barton, by MT Hietala on flickr (http://www.flickr.com/people/mth19/)
Attitudes in Rugby and Football
The interview Amal Fashanu conducted with Gareth Thomas and Josh Lewsey illustrated perfectly the gulf in tolerance between the two sports. While this is in part down to the attitudes of the players, the programme was right to point out that the “macho” argument put forward by some to defend homophobia in football is completely redundant. What the programme didn’t mention is that the press has a huge role to play in this, which leads to…
The role of the media was massively understated in this documentary. Rather than examine the role the media had in Justin’s death and the way tabloids have scandalised homophobia in football, this was largely swept under the carpet, despite it being a huge factor, particularly in the UK.
The fact that no media outlet has criticised John McGovern yet is shocking. Beyond shocking in fact. When questioned about Fashanu’s former manager Brian Clough referring to the now-deceased footballer as a “poof” McGovern’s response was to laugh. McGovern is now employed by the BBC as a radio commentator and our licence fees pay his wages. In the past, the likes of Ron Atkinson, Richard Keys and Andy Gray have all been sacked from their jobs in the media due to their backwards attitudes to race and gender. Why should homophobia be treated any differently?
While fans at Brighton were interviewed about the homophobic songs chanted by fans of opposing teams, again there was no representative from the GFSN shown on-screen. In many ways, the point made by Arsenal supporter Matt Lucas, “You’ve got to allow a little bit. I’d probably sing (“we can see you holding hands”) if we played Brighton” sums up the view shared by many football fans – that banter is part of the game. He compared such songs to the abuse of Sol Campbell which he said was wrong.
Manchester United and Liverpool fans have taunted each other for years with sickening chants about the Hillsborough disaster and the Munich air tragedy – incidents which greatly affected both clubs and resulted in much-loved players and supporters losing their lives. Sadly, the tribal nature of football has allowed such behaviour to continue for decades. Perhaps a rule of thumb of “it’s not what is thrown, it’s who it hits” would be the most effective way of judging exactly what constitutes “banter”, but it will require a seismic shift in attitudes among supporters, clubs and governing bodies alike to eradicate such bullying, which extends beyond the issue of homophobia.
Justin Fashanu the footballer
Finally, while we may have only seen glimpses in the programme, it’s worth noting how gifted Justin Fashanu was a professional footballer. It was disappointing that the producers didn’t seek out long-term Norwich City fans who could have informed viewers of the impact Fashanu had on the pitch for the club, to help further show what a talented individual he was. Grant Holt maybe banging them in for the Canaries these days, but even he couldn’t compete with this cracker Fashanu scored against Liverpool, the 1980 goal of the season.
Britain’s Gay Footballers is available to viewers in the UK on BBC iPlayer.
After our Twitter-fest on Monday night, we’ve gathered our thoughts and composed a few thoughts based on Monday’s programme about Justin Fashanu and Gay Footballers.
The programme was a tremendous success
Although the show had a tendency to frustrate with its limitations, it succeeded in raising awareness of this issue. 750,000 people tuned into BBC Three to watch the programme – a remarkable figure for the channel. It’s worth noting that this month is LGBT History Month which appropriately enough, given the forthcoming 2012 London Olympics is themed around sport. Hopefully the campaign will benefit from this national TV exposure.
Where was the LGBT sporting voice?
While the documentary did a great job in shining a light on the issue, it did not include the Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GFSN) or the Justin Campaign. Interviews with the GFSN were cut in favour of clips of Amal Fashanu shopping or talking to her friends in fashion. While they might have added to the story being told, by cutting the GFSN it did damage the programme.
During the show professional footballers took to Twitter to air their views. For example, Rio Ferdinand called the show “a decent programme” and Bolton Wanderers’ latest recruit Marvin Sordell tweeted:
“To be honest I don’t think gay footballers would be accepted for a long time. The way the media are and how ruthless a changing room can be I don’t think any player would feel safe to ‘come out’”
Players obviously do have opinions on the matter, though Rio did duck questions asking why he didn’t appear on the show, so the question that begs to be asked: Why was Joey Barton the only Premier League player willing to speak on camera about the issue?
Crowds at Tottenham stadium will be watched by stewards with headcams
Tottenham’s attempts to curb homophobic abuse at matches by issuing headcams to match officials have come under fire from the Football Supporter’s Federation (FSF).
Ahead of yesterday’s home match against London rivals Chelsea at White Hart Lane, Tottenham stewards were given headcams to wear to monitor spectator behaviour as part of a “zero-tolerance policy” to racist or homophobic abuse.
Malcolm Clark, head of the FSF, has described Spurs’ decision to use headcams as “unfortunate” and raised questions over how often the headcams would be used.
He said: “What instructions will be given to stewards about when to film? Will it be under particular circumstances or all circumstances? If they want FSF support then this isn’t the way to go about it.”
Tottenham released a statement to fans on Thursday asking them not to bring the club into disrepute that evening. It read: “A reminder to all fans, both home and away, that foul, abusive, homophobic or racist language will not be tolerated at White Hart Lane.”
Spurs defended their decision to use headcams to film crowd behaviour in a statement made to the BBC.
“This is just one of a number of measures put in place by Tottenham Hotspur to deter unacceptable behaviour.”
“[Tottenham] supports the use of CCTV which is set out within the ground regulations at all major sporting stadia,” the statement added. “We shall be monitoring both home and away fans for any foul, abusive, racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic chanting.”
The headcams have been used both by the north London club and also in international cricket matches in recent years. Spurs have agreed to meet with the FSF to discuss their use in future.
Thursday’s match was the first game for Chelsea captain John Terry after the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed he would face criminal charges for allegedly directing racist language at QPR defender Anton Ferdinand on 23 October. Reports from Thursday’s game, which finished 1-1, described Terry taking a “verbal pounding” at White Hart Lane. There have been no reports of any homophobic abuse taking place.
On Monday police cautioned a Barnsley fan for homophobic abuse at a Brighton match last month, and a Southampton supporter was banned from football for three years after shouting homophobic chants at a Brighton v Southampton match in November.
While the question of racism is currently the hot-topic in English football, Australian footballer Antony Golec has brought the question of homophobia in sport into focus in his native country.
The Adelaide United defender looks set to face stern punishment from both his club and Football Federation Australia (FFA) after he broadcast a homophobic outburst at a referee using Twitter on Saturday night.
Adelaide United defender Antony Golec is in trouble for using insulting a match official using homophobic language. Photo: Camw (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Camw)
The Australian under-20 international, described Ben Williams as “the worst referee ever” while he watched a match between Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar on television. However, this was not enough for the 21 year-old as he followed this post a homophobic slurs directed towards the official, who sent off two Melbourne players in the first half.
The defender, who can operate at centre-half or left back, has since deleted his account from the micro-blogging site. Golec’s attempt to explain away his outburst by claiming that his message wasn’t meant for public broadcast, but was instead merely intended as a private message to be read only by his brother.
His excuse has not washed with his employers or the the game’s authorities, as both have pledged to look into the incident. In a statement, Adelaide United said: “The club is extremely disappointed that Antony has placed himself in this position. He is sincerely apologetic for the incident.”
“He will be heavily censured and required to attend educational courses as the club and PFA see appropriate to reinforce the mutual rejection of inappropriate use of demeaning language towards not only match officials but all members of our community.”
An FFA spokesman told The Australian that they will be investigating the incident, adding: “Whatever Adelaide do, we will still be looking at it and reserve the right to take whatever action we think is necessary. We will not be guided by what the club does.”
Golec, who signed for United in September, has yet to appear in the A-League for his new club, and his spell on the sidelines looks to continue as a suspension, sanctioned either by the club or the FFA, now seems inevitable.
There is much for the footballing authorities in England to learn from this incident. It could have been easy enough for Adelaide United and the FFA to brush off Golec’s remarks, or accept his excuse that the message was merely meant for his brother. Instead they recognised the harm that was caused by his words – not just to the official concerned, not just to their fans, but to the entire community as whole. Their immediate and clear response sends a clear message to A-League players that such behaviour is not tolerated.