The world has undoubtedly become a more welcoming place for homosexuals, but there’s still work to be done for equal rights and social respect. Nowhere is this more evident than in athletics, which is notoriously homophobic, in almost a comical way (although nothing is funny about sports’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell culture). Recently, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wrote a scathing letter against Maryland legislator Emmett Burns, who was chuffed that Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo came out in support of Maryland’s Civil Marriage Protection Act. It was a great smackdown, but rare is the occasion when an athlete speaks out in support of homosexuals. Now, Manchester United soccer star Anders Lindegaard is adding his voice to the fray.
Lindegaard, a Danish native, recently wrote in his blog: “As a footballer I think first and foremost that a homosexual colleague is afraid of the reception he could get from the fans. My impression is that the players would not have a problem accepting a homosexual.
“Homosexuality in football is a taboo subject,” writes Lindegaard in the blog. He continues:
“The atmosphere on the pitch and in the stands is tough. The mechanisms are primitive, and it is often expressed through a classic stereotype that a real man should be brave, strong and aggressive. And it is not the image that a football fan associates with a gay person.
“The problem for me is that a lot of football fans are stuck in a time of intolerance that does not deserve to be compared with modern society’s development in the last decades. While the rest of the world has been more liberal, civilised and less prejudiced, the world of football remains stuck in the past when it comes to tolerance.”
Lindegaard took issue with the fact that a 1997 Gallup poll found that 12% of Danish men are gay, yet none of the 1000 Danish Players’ Association have come out. The DPA states that either gay players leave the sport or stay quiet.
“To turn a blind eye only indicates that one is not recognising that there is a problem,” writes Lindegaard. “Of course there is a problem if young homosexuals, who love football, have to quit the sport because they feel excluded.”
“That is in every way an unpleasant trend that does not belong in a modern and liberal society,” Lindegaard adds. “Any discrimination towards people is and should be totally unacceptable, whether it is about skin colour, religion, sexuality etc. Homosexuals are in need of a hero. They are in need of someone who dares to stand up for their sexuality.”
Lindegaard is, of course, right. If there is to be any progress at all in battling homophobia in professional sports, it must start with a gay player coming out, even if their career hangs in the balance.