Why there are no gay football players in England

Jason CollinsOf course there are. The more interesting question is why there is so much reluctance for any of them to declare their sexuality, at a time when American businessmen are saying that in sport at the moment “it pays to be gay”

This week, Jason Collins, an American basketball athlete spoke up and revealed that he was gay. It was treated as a monumental event. At very least it is an act of leadership, bravery or desperation.

The Daily News reported:

Jason Collins is the first active athlete in a major American sport to announce that he is gay, but ESPN radio’s Jared Max says he won’t be the last. Collins has been rightly applauded as a civil rights pioneer who will embolden other closeted athletes to stop hiding their sexuality and start living honest lives. By simply being who he is, he will also become a role model for all those kids who struggle with depression and self-doubt because of their sexuality.

It wasn’t that long ago when homophobic athletes felt free to share their anti-gay attitudes with the rest of the world. Teammates remained silent, unwilling to make waves in a macho world where homosexuality was perceived as weakness. But a new generation of athletes, ones that grew up in a world where actors, politicians, business leaders and professionals are openly gay, has taken over the nation’s stadiums and arenas, and many of them are more concerned about their teammate’s ability to turn a double play than who he is dating. There’s been a big change in front offices, too. Giants co-owner Steve Tisch was among the NFL executives and players who submitted a brief in support of gay marriage to the United States Supreme Court.

The attitude of sponsors, too, has radically changed in recent years. Nike has been eagerly anticipating the first active player to come out. Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts – who came out two years ago himself – told Bloomberg News earlier this month that Nike officials made it clear to him in a recent meeting that they would fully embrace the first gay athlete in major sport.
That’s why we are likely to see more players come out in the very near future: It will pay to be gay. Companies that cater to gay men and lesbians will shovel sponsorship dollars at athletes they believe will help their businesses grow.

Collins’ announcement, of course, won’t end homophobia any more than Jackie Robinson eliminated racism when he broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. “It won’t be all rosy,” Max says. “The part of the world that is ignorant won’t change overnight. But this is a victory for closeted athletes. It’s a victory for us as Americans.”

Irony in a supportive article

I could not help noting some accidental irony in what was a thoroughly supportive article in which one sports analyst quoted as saying that “[T]he entire National League East could come out by Memorial Day and receive far more cheers than jeers.” [The entire league. That would be a surprise]. The article also noted that “Nike officials made it clear [to Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts – who came out two years ago himself] that they would fully embrace the first gay athlete in major sport [who would come out].

Meanwhile in the UK

In the UK, there have been gay athletes who have declared their sexuality, but only at the end of their careers. In football, a vociferous section of the fans will use any form of abuse that might rattle an opponent. The most noxious racist chants are being legislated out of the game. But a gay player may still feel that the American belief that “It pays to be gay” comes at a considerable personal cost.

Update

On the other hand, in another sport loving nation, McDonalds, an Olympic sponsor is embroiled in a gay discrimination case

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