A controversy over soccer players and homosexuality has erupted in Brazil.
The director of Brazilian soccer club Palmeiras, Jose Cyrillo Jr., recently insinuated in a TV interview that Richarlyson, a player for Sao Paulo, is gay. The suggestion inspired a defamation lawsuit against Cyrillo, and that’s where the trouble really began.
“Judge Manoel Maximiano Junqueira Filho stoked the dispute by dismissing Richarlyson’s claim and issuing a ruling that suggested he leave the game if he were gay. If he weren’t, the judge said, Richarlyson was obliged to defend himself on the same TV program. ‘Not that a homosexual can’t play soccer,’ Filho wrote. ‘He can, but he must form his own team and federation, setting up matches with those who want to play against him.’ The judge concluded it is not ‘reasonable to accept homosexuals in Brazilian soccer because it would hurt the uniformity present’ in team sport. Soccer, the judge said, is a ‘virile game’ but ‘not homosexual,’ and allowing gays could lead to affirmative action for the sport requiring quotas of gays. The ruling prompted the government body that oversees judicial ethics in Brazil to demand an explanation from the judge, who has until Friday to respond.”
Gay groups in Brazil are understandably outraged by the judge’s comments, but say the debate about sexuality in sports is a good one. Said Marcelo Cerqueira, president of the Grupo Gay da Bahia: “It was a fascist statement and (the judge) needs to pay for it. This case is important to uncover the issue about gays in soccer, to create debate.”
Richarlyson, who has kept mum about his sexuality during the controversy, appeared on a talk show on Sunday night to finally discuss it: “If I was (gay), I wouldn’t have any problems admitting it. This is a disrespect not only to me, it’s a disrespect to Brazil. All that matters is if the player can do his job on the field.”
Judge Filho voided his initial ruling, according to USA Today, and “took a leave of absence beginning Monday with no date for a return.”
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