Eight Footballers Tell Officials They’re Gay, Afraid to Come Out

Eight footballers have revealed to officials that they are gay but afraid to come out for fear of retribution from homophobic fans, the Guardian reports:

RogersGay campaigners told the Observer that Clarke Carlisle, chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, had revealed that eight players had approached him to disclose that they were gay. Seven told him that the reason they would not reveal their sexual orientation publicly was not the reaction from the dressing room or club, but the potential reaction from the media and supporters. Chris Basiurski, chair of the Gay Football Supporters' Network, said that, although progressive attitudes had begun to infiltrate the dressing room, the fear of how supporters would react remained a problem.

"The danger is not so much coming out, but what happens next," he said. "One of the problems Justin Fashanu found was that he was the first black millionaire player, and a lot of things were expected of him on the pitch at Nottingham Forest and it didn't really work out. When that happened, the dressing room and the management used his sexuality as a thing to bash him with."

Last week it was reported that Robbie Rogers, who was released by Leeds United in January before he came out, was training with the L.A. Galaxy, inspiring speculation that he may one day return to the game.


  1. Ben in Oakland says

    Just do it, boys, or turn in your nike’s.

    You’re afraid of what could happen. So are thousands of gay kids, but they do it anyway. You might have repercussions, you might not.

  2. Lucas H says

    I came out when I was a scared teenager in a small, conservative rural area nearly 20 years ago.

    I imagine the pressure on these guys is like the pressure I felt back then, magnified by 1000. I do not blame them for remaining closeted.

  3. Jack says

    Where are all the “Europe is so much more enlightened than the USA” people?

  4. Francis #1 says

    What happened to Justin Fashanu I’m sure has an impact on these players. Homophobic abuse is rampant in football stadiums in Europe. They haven’t progressed past racism and xenophobia so homophobia is unfortunately a long way off. I don’t blame these men. MLS in the USA is significantly more culturally progressive.

    The media works differently in the States so guys are less likely to be out at all in this country compared to Europe. Only 5% of MLB players and 4% of NFL players know someone gay in the league. In Europe you can be glass closeted and less likely to be exposed.

    A lot like in the US, most superstars don’t want to talk about gay issues or appear in gay magazines because they don’t want to be thought of as gay. There’s still this culture of insecurity and fear revolving around homosexuality in sport that has to be broken.

  5. says

    Well, I remember being a scared lightweight teenager struggling with Coming Out, too. I’m not sure the pressure they face is more than the pressure TEENS face, however. I can’t really see that.

    at-risk teens with (often) no means to support themselves? the kids who’ve had the “F@ggot” label and target on their back for years? the kids who aren’t in pro-sports and don’t have an athletes physique to defend themselves with?

    i don’t “blame” them for remaining closeted. they do, however, need to blame each other (and themselves) for their collective situation: a bunch of guys wondering and waiting which of them is gonna be the vanguard and open the doors. how about y’all do it together, eh?

    the longer guys give excuses and wait for someone else to do it, the longer time passes with people not doing anything.

    but hearing a bunch of adults pretty much saying “we see how THOSE gays get treated and we don’t want that to happen to us” is just so bloody irritating.

    hi, the solution is an active dismantling of closet culture. feel free to join the rest of your brothers in coming out.

  6. Charles Decker says

    As Judy Shepard says every time she speaks, ‘We MUST tell our stories.’

  7. Lucas H says

    Kiwi, I agree with your sentiment as usual…

    However. We can talk about the “active dismantling of closet culture” all day long, but the problem is, when it comes down to it, the (in this case) soccer players out there on the front lines are going to be the ones facing the actual fire. For all we know, they are already out to their family and friends, the same as we are. Anderson Cooper was “out” to his family and friends before he publicly declared his sexual orientation. Being a public figure and stating “I’m gay” comes with an entirely different set of baggage than we faced. Not only will these guys have to deal with the homophobic sports culture, they will also have the added pressure of being a “hero” to a younger generation. And when it comes down to it, they are as human as the rest of us.

    IDK. Id love to see another out sports figure. But I wouldn’t push them into that light. When they are ready, if they’re up to it, I think they’ll do it on their own.

  8. Francis #1 says

    It’s a conundrum these men are in, men and women in sports, in general. Coming out of the closet can and likely, sadly, will lead to backlash and nasty comments and behavior against said closeted players, at least in Euro football. But the only way to test that and to make any sort of breakthrough against the status quo homophobia is by coming out and speaking out against it and bringing awareness to said issues.

    I’m usually 100% come out, come out, don’t closet yourself as that really doesn’t help much. But I can understand why these guys don’t. I sympathize. Coming out in the spotlight, with intense pressure from all directions, traveling to cities/countries that are very anti-gay, it does add something to the entire coming out process most of us have not dealt with. The sports world needs a culture change. At least we’re finally talking about these issues in sports whereas in the past it was completely shut off from discussion.

  9. Caliban says

    There’s a level of “hooliganism” amongst European fans which we really don’t have in the US or Canada. Even our sports obsessed yobbos act well in comparison. Having anti-gay slurs yelled at them is the least of what these players have to fear, they probably have concerns about their physical safety, which is legitimate and understandable.

  10. says

    it’s not about pushing anyone Out, it’s about getting people to see that they can’t sit and wait for someone else to do the Work for them.

    people have been coming out for a LONG time, in all walks of life, and in all places.

    yes, they’re as human as the rest of us. i concur. but that means they can do what “we” have done.

  11. CMLion says

    I can’t blame these guys for staying in the closet. Everyone comes out when it’s right for them–or they’re outed.

    It’s easy from the other side of being out. We realize the benefits far outweigh staying in the closet–but it’s tough to see from back there.

    As much as I’d like to see more players out, as long as they aren’t making anti-gay remarks, I think it’s fine.

    In a few years, it’s not going to be too big of a deal. Ellen came out in the 90’s and it was the cover of Time… now celebrities come out all the time and it’s noted, but not the sensation it was with Ellen.

    Like all good things, it takes a little time…

  12. says

    look, i’m not dismissing their concerns and fears – BUT…. what makes their fears for their own personal safety any different than the fears for personal safety that any other “visibly/obviously/identifiably” gay person walking each day in the real world goes through?

  13. Lucas H says

    I think what makes it different is that it occurs in a public arena. Jason Collins is STILL being talked about all over the media simply because he came out. He was NEVER talked about before. He was unknown. And basketball fans are not even as rabid as soccer fans.

    It isn’t just, like the rest of us, we worry about our family and our friends and maybe our co-workers.

    I don’t know. I sound like I’m promoting the closet, and that isn’t what I want to do at all. Just… I don’t think that being a public figure should also require one to be a hero. If you are a hero, YAY!!!!! I love you. If not, then whatever. I’m over it :)

  14. Lucas H says

    I think what I’m feeling is, these “eight footballers” are people we should be concerned about and have sympathy for. Not people we should be pushing out.

  15. Matt26 says

    Everyone makes their individual choice when and how coming out. I can understand the media puts questions to these guys’ minds. I hope they come out and change the way people see sports, but they have the right to do as they think it the best for them.

  16. says

    all fair and valid points. yet the reality is that they’re in the situation they’re in because other men in their situation made the same exact choice; that’s what Closet Culture does.

  17. Jay says

    Just focus on football and be the best you can be. Coming out will set you free to focus on the things that really matter.

    As for the publicity, well just ignore it.

  18. Lars says

    Time to stand up and be counted, come what may. There could be pain in the short term, it’s true. But the long term payoff for them personally and for the profession generally will certainly offset that.

  19. anon says

    I think this is mostly a question of who will be brave enough to come out first.

  20. EchtKultig says

    Certain Americans embrace professional sports because it creates some mythic aura of classlessness. You have to be in pretty rarefied circles, at least on the East Coast, to not be considered strange if you don’t like sports – heck I know of a Harvard professor who frequently goes to Red Sox games. In Europe, OTOH, it’s considered perfectly normal for some in the upper-middle and upper classes to regard professional sports with utter disdain. Bread and circuses, which is basically what I think of it, although I do sometimes find watching certain sports to be mildly entertaining. Hence the fan base in Europe is decidedly more working class (except perhaps for something like cricket). No surprises that these players don’t think their fans would take it well.

  21. trg says

    In response to
    “Where are all the “Europe is so much more enlightened than the USA” people?
    Posted by: Jack | May 6, 2013 11:14:17 AM”

    Good question, but many European, especially UK football (soccer) and rugby fans are known for their stupidity.

    That’s why they’re called “hooligans.”

  22. trg says

    Re: Little Kiwi
    “look, i’m not dismissing their concerns and fears – BUT…. what makes their fears for their own personal safety any different than the fears for personal safety that any other “visibly/obviously/identifiably” gay person walking each day in the real world goes through?”

    Unfortunately, for those in the UK, there is a very real threat of violence – the “hooligans” are known for it over there during and after games. We’re very fortunate that we haven’t had as much violence at sporting events in the USA.

    Sorry to hear about the attack on the couple after the Knicks game at MSG. Hopefully this is only a brief backlash after the coming out of NBA player Jason Collins – or maybe had nothing to do with it. My gut tells me things will change for the better, but some blood will be shed.

  23. Michael says

    Sorry, Kiwi, but come back to reality.

    It’s so much easier to tell people how to live their lives when you don’t have to face the consequences of your advice.

    Trust me, I went through a situation in Davie, FL, about 4 years ago where I was told by 3 different people in a week I’d be beaten up for being gay but I remained out and proud and it was by far the hardest year I’ve been through. However, what these guys are facing is way beyond the difficulties I faced so, please, save your advice until you’re starred a gun point blank for being out and proud only to tell that person to pull the friggin trigger.

  24. Michael says

    btw, to give you an idea of how f’d up that town Davie is/was was the 3 people who told me that week were my roommate, my boyfriend and a guy at a bar who said he’d do it himself if he didn’t have a gay brother.

  25. Jenny says

    Some of you people do not understand how disgusting football fans in Europe actually are. In America the only time there are sports riots is after a championship. And at that time great planning goes in place to make sure things do not get too out of hand. In Europe they throw bananas at black places and make monkey noises. They run onto the field and start fights if their team doesn’t win. Can you imagine the level of violence, both verbal and physical that a gay athlete with face?

  26. andrew says

    There is no doubt that the world would be a better place for LGBT people if we were all out. However each individual must decide for themselves what is possible in their situation. No one can make that decision for you. Ignore the professional gays who have their own political and social agendas. Step out now if you can. If you can’t step out now, step out as soon as you can. Always keep in mind that out is better than in! The truth is always better than a lie.

  27. says

    well , when you choose to work in front of several thousand drunk, knuckle dragging , mouth breathing soccer fans who riot weather they win or lose … that’s a legit fear