Pride Month: Sport can do more to support the LGBT+ community

With Pride Month in full swing, sports organizations need to do more to encourage adoption

A month to celebrate and honor members of the LGBT+ community and their allies, and to educate the world on their ongoing fight for equality and acceptance.

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Pride flags are popping up in cafes, restaurants and shops, and rainbows are carried in abundance by those in positions of power and influence who are encouraged to show their support for the movement.

In 2019, the government estimated that around 1.4 million people aged 16 and over identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual, with a further 1.6 million saying they didn’t know or would refuse to answer.

That number has certainly increased in recent years as the world seeks to make the LGBT+ community more welcoming, and while campaigns, marches and petitions continue to increase, the world of sport still feels like it’s growing in its supportive stance lagging behind and acceptance.

These moments show that there is a drive to support the LGBT+ movement, but far too small for what is needed.

There are around 5,000 male footballers in the English professional football leagues. If we use government reported figures which suggest around 3% of the UK population is gay, statistically there are around 150 gay footballers.

However, as of June 2022 there is only one openly gay male footballer in England’s top four leagues.

Blackpool’s Jake Daniels recently came out as gay and is the first openly gay active male footballer in the EFL since Justin Fashanu in 1990.

Daniels himself was inspired to come out after Australian footballer Josh Cavallo did so in October, becoming the only male professional footballer in the world to be openly gay.

Norwich City show their support for Jake Daniels, May 2022

While Daniels has been inundated with support from other footballers, teams and celebrities around the world, it is clear that we live in such a world where societal pressures to be a male footballer create an environment that is not ready to accept gay men.

At first glance, it seems that women’s football has a much more open and accepting environment for those who come out as members of the LGBT+ community.

The 2019 Women’s World Cup, held in France, boasted at least 41 openly gay or bisexual women competing, while there were none at the men’s tournament the year before.

Even though there are many more openly gay or bisexual women in the world of football, that doesn’t mean the acceptance is there.

Just as these women are grappling with the sexist and chauvinistic manifestations of being a woman in football, homophobia stalks them.

No wonder this isn’t just limited to the world of football.

Two of England’s best cricketers have recently married. All-rounder Natalie Sciver married her teammate and one of England’s most successful bowlers, Katherine Brunt.

The England Cricket Twitter account posted a beautiful picture of the couple with the caption: “Our warmest congratulations to Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver who married over the weekend.”

Nat Sciver and Katherine Brunt recently got married

While they received hundreds of comments congratulating them on their day, the reality of Twitter predictably collapsed as people heaped on moronic taunts including: “Where are your husbands?”; “Can someone explain who is the husband and who is the wife?” and, as you can imagine, some comments that should rather be repeated.

Small groups and support networks have been set up to help promote equality in sport, such as: Three Lions Pride or the rainbow wall in football, but there is still a lack of commitment from the larger organizations to tackle the massive homophobia and lack of acceptance.

While this can happen any time of the year, Pride Month is a perfect opportunity for more powerful and influential organizations like the Football Association FA or UEFA to take a joint initiative to ensure those living in fear are either coming out, or those who have already come out and are suffering from rampant homophobic abuse can feel secure and supported in the careers they have worked tirelessly to create. Pride Month: Sport can do more to support the LGBT+ community


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