Team players

Football chairman wants closeted players to come out together as a group

It sounds like the setup to a naughty movie, but it’s actually the goal of the chairman of the Football Association in England. Greg Clarke says he wants a whole bunch of “football” (what we call soccer, just to be difficult) players to to all come out of the closet at once this year.

It’s actually a really nice idea. It would mean that everyone would have a lot of support and help, and that fans would see just how many of their favorite players are queer. It would be particularly meaningful to LGBT fans.

Clarke was hesitant about recommending that players come out individually, because he is concerned about harassment in the organization that he runs. That’s kind of awful, but good for him for acknowledging a problem.

So what is he doing about it? Actually, a lot: he’s meeting with queer sports figures in private, and talking to players about what they want. (Nobody’s going to be forcibly outed.)

He’s also putting effort into welcoming black people into leadership roles — football/soccer teams have lagged somewhat in this area. Manager roles have historically disproportionately imbalanced along racial lines.

So for those of us capable of following along with British athletics, it’s an exciting time! It doesn’t make sense that players and managers wouldn’t reflect their fans, so changes like those Clarke is describing have been a long time coming.

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  • Kangol

    It would be nice if it happened in the NFL–US professional football–too, and in the NBA, MLB and NHL. So far, though, only a few brave players have dared do so while still playing (Michael Sam, Jason Collins, etc.). Where are all the rest?

  • Captain Obvious

    And then what? It’s a long hard road for men in those positions and not everyone wants to go through that. Let it happen organically. You can’t force it.

    Many people who are “different” have lost careers, families, and even their lives being the poster boy/girl. It’s not as simple as just standing together. The people on the front lines take the biggest risk and often don’t reap the rewards.

    It’s a lot to ask.

  • Jack Meoff

    “Greg Clarke says he wants a whole bunch of “football” (what we call soccer, just to be difficult) players to to all come out of the closet at once this year.”

    Ben Dougas who is it that you are accusing of being difficult, the English or Americans? It is a game invented in the UK so they can call it what they like.

    • Bryguyf69

      Jack Meoff,
      It was pretty clear to me that the blog was jokingly criticizing us Americans for calling the sport, “soccer,” when most of the English-speaking world refers to it as “football,” As a medical researcher, I feel the same way about Americans and the metric system. Ironically, both the word, “soccer” and the Imperial measurements (e.g. Inches, feet, etc) are have English origins. But unlike Americans (and to a lesser extent, Canadians), the Brits decided to go the practical route. “Football” is much more descriptive, and the metric system is by far more logical. It has always bothered me that our game is called, “football,” when kicking is a very very tiny part of the game. A better term would be, “American rugby.”

  • Billy Budd

    This would be awesome. I hope Crissy Ronaldo will join the group.

  • Herman75

    When thinking how the Brits spread their Bible based laws to every corner of the planet that fell under their empire, calling for death for men that lay down with men, and how that harmful legacy remains today around the world, somehow I care a little bit less about what’s going on at a sportsball stadium in the UK.

  • Jack Meoff

    @Herman75: Right because the British Empire were the only culture that spread Christian based faiths and religious based laws that persecuted minorities and nobody else.

  • jjose712

    not going to happen. I keep hearing this soccer players coming out of the closet till mid 90’s, not going to happen, at least not soon

    • Bryguyf69

      True, but times have changed A LOT since the mid-90’s. Much, if not most, of Western Europe now have gay marriage or civil unions. Ireland, long a bastion of Catholicism (hence the term, “Irish Catholic”), even became the first country to legal same-sex marriage by popular vote.

      When I first had this debate in 2010, the FIFA World Cup was held in South Africa. I pointed out then that all 4 semi-finalist nations and host, South Africa, recognized gay marriage or civil unions, and were generally gay-friendly. Champion Spain and runner-up Netherlands were the 3rd and 1st countries to legalize gay marriage, respectively. Germany and Uruguay had civil unions, with the latter legalizing gay marriage in 2013 (while gay-friendly Germany is shockingly still behind the times!). And host South Africa not only had gay marriage, but was the first nation to explicitly include gay equality in its constitution (thanks to gay-friendly Nelson Mandela).

      As for the UK, where this statement was made, there’s been a major cultural shift since the 1990s. One of the greatest British exports is music, and many major performers have either come out as gay, or spoken up for gay rights. In fact, there was a span where it seemed like the top boy bands all had a gay member. Major examples were Stephen Gately of Boyzone, and Mark Fehilly of Westlife. Both received wide support upon coming out. When Gately died mysteriously, the public attacked the press for suggesting that being gay was somehow involved. And there was Will Young, the first winner ever of the worldwide “Idol” franchise. He won UK’s Pop Idol in February 2002, and came out a month later (after threats of being outed). That didn’t stop his song from being the fastest selling debut single in UK history. Finally, we have Adele, arguably the top British solo artist right now. There are plenty of videos showing her celebrating gay couples on stage. And let’s not forget the stodgy royal family. Prince Harry is said to have protected a gay soldier from a gaybashing, and for the first time, a member of the Royal Family, Lord Ivar Mountbatten, has publicly come out. Many are predicting that the first gay royal wedding can’t be far behind.

      All said, I think a mass coming out in soccer is possible in the UK. The biggest impediment might be that soccer is a global sport. Being out limits a player’s opportunites to play on foreign teams.

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