Jason Collins laid the groundwork when he made the announcement last week that he was gay, and now the results of his bravery are starting to bare fruit.
According to a report by Sports Illustrated via Mark Townsend of the Guardian, as many as eight Barclays English Premier League soccer players have revealed to their teammates that they are gay.
As of right now, the players are refusing to go public with their announcement for fear of the reaction of the fans and the media. The last English soccer player to reveal that he was gays was Justin Fashanu in 1990. Fashanu, played for four years after coming out, but committed suicide at 37, after having a difficulty dealing with the backlash. Fashanu, was also accused by a 17-year-old boy of sexual assault, but said it was consensual in his suicide note.
According to the report, the players have gone to the Professional Football’s Association chairman Clarke Carlisle, to reveal their sexuality. The chairman of the Gay Football Supporter’s Network Chris Basiurski, says that while the players would be supportive of gay teammates, soccer fans may not have yet progressed to that level.
“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.”
Basiurski said the organisation had heard reports of professional players whose sexuality was a secret guarded inside the game: “We have anecdotal evidence that players are out within their clubs and don’t have a problem. But we are trying to create an atmosphere for people to come out safely, but at the moment there is a big barrier. The fact is, we have never really tested the fans, both home or away, on this.
“The danger is what happens when a player comes out and gets loads of support and attention, but then start playing badly. The worry is that fans will start getting on their backs and they may lose the confidence of their manager and it could be connected to their sexuality.”
American soccer player Robbie Rogers, quit the sport after coming out on his blog earlier this year, for fear of how the soccer culture would accept him.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the soccer players abroad would get a slightly different reaction to their announcement than Collins got here in North America when he came out.
Racism in soccer is still a huge issue in Europe, so I can understand why the players are fearful to come all the way out. There’s still plenty of ignorance emanating in that part of the world.