Homophobia has no place in sport–though it often finds its way onto the field. It presents itself in different ways and at all levels. College athletics carefully tip-toe around the subject and professional leagues don’t know what to do with it. To those who are unaware of the homophobia rampant in sports culture they may believe that it is only an obstacle for women’s sports who continue to be collectively stigmatized. For people who’ve spent time in a locker room, a practice or even just witnessed a pick up game between male friends they know that homophobia is a challenge for men’s sports, as well. Instead of a stigma, however, men’s sports are a breeding ground of hate speech.
Natasha Kai, a Hawaiian forward for the US Women’s National Team, made a small splash leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics when she casually mentioned her girlfriend. She was one of only 11* out**athletes who competed in the Olympic games. Three of the 11 athletes competed for their respective countries in soccer (Victoria Svensson, Sweden; Linda Bresonik, Germany). Only one of the athletes was a man (Matthew Mitcham – Diving, Australia–eventual gold medalist).
So what’s this have to do with soccer today? An article published on October 20th on globalpost.com chronicles two amateur level French teams–Creteil Bebel, made up of mostly Muslim players and Paris Foot Gay, made up of gay and straight men. In short, Creitiel Bebel send an email to Paris Foot Gay refusing to play their scheduled match. Short and to the point, the email said: “Sorry, but in light of the name of your team and in keeping with the principles of our team, which is a team of practicing Muslims, we cannot play against you; our convictions are stronger than a simple game of soccer. Sorry to have informed you so late.” A hearing occurred on October 13th and on the 14th the league ejected Creteil Bebel for “refusing the match on discriminatory grounds.” Looking to make this a learning experience, Paris Foot Gay’s co-founder and current president Pascal Brethes suggested that the teams play on the same side against celebrities and artists in a benefit match against discrimination. The game was set for November 14th, but Certeil Bebel rejected the invitation.
*This statistic comes from Pat Griffin’s LGBT Sport Blog. Pat Griffin is the Director of the Women’s Sports Foundation’s It Takes A Team! Education Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Issues in Sport. She’s a Professor Emerita at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the author of Strong Women, Deep Closets: Lesbian and Homophobia in Sports (Human Kinetics: 1998). She attributes this statistic to AfterEllen and Outsports and it was “frozen” as of August 11, 2008–three days into the games. Her blog can be read here and the specific entry can be found here.
**This statistic only reflects athletes who were out to media sources. I recognize that many more athletes are probably out to their friends and families.