With the announcements this week both from Michael Sam, looking to be drafted into the NFL, and England women’s captain Casey Stoney revealing they are homosexual, it seems like the final taboo barrier in sport is being pulled down.
In the case of Stoney, a seasoned international with 116 caps for the national team, she had never hid her sexuality within football circles because it’s accepted but had been holding back from saying it publically worried of being judged. Thankfully, that has now lifted and there has been widespread messages of support for the Arsenal player, hoping that she has helped others in her position to be comfortable in their own skin.
Her own inspiration, she said, came from the recent coming out of diver Tom Daley, who revealed he was in a relationship with a man back in December. She has become the most high profile active gay footballer, a positive step in changing attitudes after players such as Robbie Rodgers felt obliged to retire, albeit briefly, because they didn’t feel they would be accepted.
These, added to the recent coming out of retired German international Thomas Hitzlsperger, are beginning to change minds that it’s acceptable within a sport such as football to be a homosexual and that’s very welcoming from an adapting society.
This week also saw University of Missouri defensive tackle Michael Sam revealing he is gay, having told his teammates during the season but felt that he should reveal it before being drafted. There has been plenty of support, especially for his bravery in a sport that in the past has shown it’s ugly side to the issue.
Plenty of players have vocally said they would feel ‘uncomfortable’ or simply wouldn’t want a homosexual player on their side but the NFL is fully supporting Sam. Hopefully it won’t affect his draft stock, projected to go between the third and fifth round and again hopefully inappropriate questions about his private life won’t be asked during the scouting process by teams.
He is likely to become the first active homosexual male in America’s four major sports, with Rodgers’ MLS not considered and Jason Collins yet to compete again in the NBA but mainly due to his play rather than his sexuality. It’s a big pressure for someone at just 24 entering the NFL but if handled with grace it will be a huge encouragement to not be afraid of scrutiny anymore.
Even in the most macho of sports, boxing, a man in Orlando Cruz has had the courage to come out in a positive light and whilst he’s no longer in title contention, it’s only due to skill. It lifted a weight from his shoulders that he felt had helped him, it’s a weight that no-one should have to burden for much longer.
It’s all great that everyone feels like they can come out about their sexuality and be more open about it but hopefully it’s a means to an ends where it isn’t an issue anymore. Society is becoming more accepting, despite countries like Russia being behind the times and it’ll only be a matter of time where it’s no longer talked about.
Mistakes have been made in the past, such as the lack of support for Justin Fashanu in the 90’s but sport is beginning to make amendments to make sure it’s a more welcoming atmosphere to people of all creeds. However, there is still more to do and then hopefully in the near future the only talking point about any professional sportsmen will be their ability, not what they do behind closed doors.