There are very few industries that doesn’t have at least some LGBTI representation.
Yes, we’ve not had a LGBTI UK Prime Minister or President of the US, but there’s been huge steps forward.
There are lesbian scientists, trans racing drivers, and non-binary music artists topping the charts.
But, still, there is an exception: the men’s football game in Europe doesn’t have a single professional gay or bi player.
A gay footballer has nearly come out several times
The secret is this: over the past six years working as a LGBTI journalist, it’s nearly happened several times.
You hear it from contacts in the industry, both journalism and football, about murmurs of a footballer considering coming out.
Sometimes it’s the same one, sometimes they’re different. Either way, for one reason or another, the footballer decides to stay closeted.
And this week, once again, it may or may not have happened.
An alleged UK championship footballer said he would come out today (24 July). But, late last night, he said he wouldn’t. The Twitter denied it was a hoax and he deleted the account.
‘I thought I was stronger. I was wrong,’ he said.
‘Call me all the names under the sun, belittle me and ridicule me, a lot will, and I can’t change that, but I’m not strong enough to do this,’ he wrote. ‘Just remember that I’ve got feelings, without coming out I can’t convince anybody otherwise, but this isn’t a hoax. I wouldn’t do that.’
We don’t know who this man is, if he is a footballer at all, but I know for a fact this has happened before.
Why gay and bi footballers are refusing to come out
In 2018, tabloids set their sights on a bisexual Premier League footballer.
His 21-year-old boyfriend, who worked in fashion, split from the soccer star and loudly started talking about his ex.
Two British papers, unsurprisingly, promised him thousands if he would go on the record and out his former partner.
But, then, the soccer star reportedly paid double to keep his ex quiet. Because of the rabid tabloid nature, many athletes were forced further into the closet.
Prior to that, there were around five professionals that were set to come out at the same time.
The problem is there are an estimated 500,000 soccer players around the world.
What would happen if a gay footballer did identify as gay or bi
For the first gay UK professional in decades, yes it’s likely there will be a media firestorm. Yes, he’d be on talk shows and give press interviews. For the first week or so, his life will insanely hectic.
But what comes afterwards? He will known as the gay footballer, and with that comes a huge amount of responsibility. He must be scandal-proof, he has to be gay enough for the queers and straight enough for mainstream, and he has to take all that on after living a life in the closet.
And then in games after that, he would also be a target from homophobic fans. Yes, FIFA says they are trying to stop this but it continues constantly. Brighton and Hove Albion, just because it’s a team at a gay capital in Britain, faces homophobic chants at nearly every game.
Don’t forget also about the possibility of losing sponsorship, homophobic coaches, managers and teammates, and more.
It’s up to him to decide how much he can handle that pressure. And, if he wants to pivot that into a media personality role, the pressure stays on.
It’s no wonder many male athletes wait until they retire until they come out.
There are an estimated 500,000 soccer players around the world.
Justin Fashanu was the first, in 1990, and his story ended in suicide.
The first black striker to demand a £1 million transfer fee, he faced homophobic and racist abuse.
The torture Justin suffered from the press, homophobic fans and the football industry casts a long shadow.
Joe Morgan is the news editor at Gay Star News. Follow him on Twitter.