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Coming Out: Robbie Rogers, Homophobia, & the Beautiful Game

March 18, 2013

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During the last few decades, the international football community has witnessed great stars, triumphant glory, and magnificent victories. It has also witnessed great sorrow from deaths of players on the pitch to fatal car accidents, large match-fixing scandals and suicides. However, one topic has alluded conversation during these time periods and has only resurfaced in recent months in the community – Being gay in the international football world.

Being gay and coming out in public is something virtually unheard of in the international football community. While there is no doubt a decent number of players who identify as gay, bisexual transgender, etc, there is still a great stigma attached to being a sexual minority in the football world. “How would the fans react?” “What would their families think?” These are some of the questions wondered by gay footballers. Their anxiety and fear often keeps them in hiding; afraid of showing who they really are to the world. I recently asked friends on social networking how they would feel if one of their favorite athletes turned out to be gay. Mostly everyone agreed that their sexuality would not change how they feel about them. In fact, some even said that they would respect them more for standing out in a world that’s dominated by masculine heterosexuality. I also agree that as an LGBT supporter, I would support my favorite athlete(s) in their decision to come out openly.

The last footballer to openly come out to the media and general public was Justinus Soni ”Justin” Fashanu in 1990. Born in London in 1961, Fashanu made his debut with Norwich City in 1978. He played for Norwich City’s first-team, Adelaide City, Nottingham Forest, Notts County and Brighton & Hove Albion before moving to North America to play with Canadian and American teams in the late 1980s. Fashanu’s career unfortunately came to a tragic end in 1998 when a seventeen year old boy accused him of sexually assaulting him after a night of drinking while he was living in the United States. The local police in Maryland visited his apartment in April to ask him questions but did not make an arrest or search his flat. Fashanu panicked and fled back to England soon after. One month after that, on the morning of May 3, 1998, Fashanu was found hanging in a local lock-up garage that he had broken into. He left behind a suicide note claiming that he was already presumably guilty and did not want to further embarrass his family and friends. Also in the note, he proclaimed his innocent and insisted that the sex was consensual with the teenage boy. At the time, the age of consent was 16 in the state of Maryland. To make matters worse, American authorities revealed to London authorities in September of 1998 that they dropped all charges due to lack of evidence and had no search warrant or intentions of searching his apartment. This tragic story stunned the international football community and left many searching for answers. Fashanu left behind a legacy to date as the only English player to ever come out openly as homosexual and continue his career.

Last month, nearly twenty-three years after the first international footballer came out as gay to the public, US born winger and second striker Robbie Rogers announced his retirement from playing The Beautiful Game. Being only 25 years old, the international community was stunned at his announcement. Rogers was born in Southern California in 1987 and began playing his international career after one season of playing with the University of Maryland’s professional men’s soccer team. He joined Dutch side Heerenveen in 2006 but made no first-team appearances with the club during his time there. From there, he joined the US club Columbus Crew in 2007 and played with them for four seasons. It was arguably the best part of Rogers’ career, winning the 2008 MLS Cup with Columbus as well as two Supporters’ Shields in 2008 and 2009. In 2011, he opted out of a contract extension with Columbus and signed with English Championship side Leeds United one month later. He didn’t play very much with Leeds and had injuries throughout the first six months of his stay before making four first-team appearances with the club. He joined League One side Stevenage on a loan-deal from Leeds United in August, 2012 and played with the club up until January of 2013, making six first-team appearances before returning back to Leeds after his loan ended. Rogers and Leeds agreed on an announcement in which Rogers would leave the club based on mutual consent in January of 2013. During this time, Robbie Rogers also played for the United State’s Men’s National Team on and off again since the age of 18.

In February of 2013, Robbie Rogers announced on his blog that he was retiring from football all together at the age of 25. He revealed that he had something to get off his chest and finally wanted to free himself. He admitted in the blog that he was gay: “Rogers stated — “Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined”.

The outpouring of support Rogers received from the international community was welcoming. Many fans and teammates alike wanted him to continue playing as he is in the prime of his career at the age of 25 but respected his decision to retire from all competitions. Rogers admittedly used football as an escape to hide his true identity. But the fact remains is that his friends, family and ex-teammates all supported him and would have loved to play with him regardless of his sexual orientation. Perhaps it was anxiety and fear that made Rogers choose to retire instead of playing as an openly gay man. To date, he is only the second footballer to come out as gay since Fashanu in 1990.  While I disagree with his decision to retire at 25, I understand and respect his choices and wish him the very best of luck in his future endeavors.

With recent homophobic attacks in Serbia and Russia, it’s no surprise that footballers are afraid to come out to the general public. They fear that their friends, loved ones and clubs will judge them for who they are and not how they play the game. They fear how their teammates would react to having a gay player in the dressing rooms with them. They fear how parents would view them while taking their kids to a game that they are playing in. Many of these fears are within themselves, but there is undoubtedly a stigma in the international community regarding gay players that must be erased. The time has come where sexual minorities should not fear playing The Beautiful Game as they truly are, openly and proud. The time has come where we as fans and supporters must be supportive of their choices and respect who they are as people and athletes. Wiping out homophobia and other prejudices from our communities is not an easy task and it takes every one of us to do all that we can to educate others about discrimination and try our very hardest to make the international game a positive and friendly environment where you can be free to be yourself above all else.

Written by @TSwan313. Originally posted here.

News Round-Up

March 11, 2013

January

Footballer in gay magazine: it’s time to tackle the last taboo
West Ham United winger Matt Jarvis appears on cover of Attitude and says gay footballers should feel able to come out.

February

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Robbie Rogers (Wikipedia)

Robbie Rogers: Ex-Leeds United and USA winger reveals he is gay
United States and ex-Leeds United winger Robbie Rogers says he is ‘’stepping away’’ from football after announcing he is gay.

U.S. Players Rally Behind Robbie Rogers on Twitter
Some of Rogers’ teammates showed their support via Twitter. (Continue the support by tweeting @robbierogers .)

Sounders FC Supports Robbie Rogers (video)
Members of Sounders FC send their words of support and admiration to Robbie Rogers.

FA offers support to Robbie
The Football Association has offered its full support to former Leeds United Winger Robbie Rogers after he came out as gay

Football v Homophobia toolkit backed by West Ham and England manager 
The Football v Homophobia campaign has sent a toolkit to clubs guiding them in how to combat homophobia and reach out to LGBT fans and players, in a move backed by the England manager and West Ham team.

Commotion surrounding a Dutch TV special

July 25, 2012

Gay-rights organization COC isn’t pleased with the coach of AFC Ajax, Frank de Boer. In a BNN promo, regarding a special about homosexuality within the world of football, De Boer says: ”If you look at the gay man, I think, he is somewhat less sporty, most of the time. The motor skills, normally, usually stand out when you look at gay people. Perhaps that’s the reason.”

(Picture credit: YouTube)

He said that in a response to the question why there are so few gay people in (Dutch) professional football. COC now wants the coach to apologize for his words because he affirmed a certain stereotype. De Boer reacted on Twitter: ”Football belongs to everyone, also to gays. I regret all the commotion. The statement was removed from context.” His twin brother Ronald also responded through Twitter: ”I don’t know what’s going on exactly, but my brother has nothing against gays and isn’t the type who hurts people. #StormInATeaCup”

The promo video was removed from the website after pressure from AFC Ajax. But luckily the whole special, called ”FC Gay”, will be shown on Dutch television on the 4th of August. The entire evening will be all about breaking the taboo that surrounds the subject. BNN will advocate for the acceptance of gays in the world of football. Guests that evening will be the president of the Royal Dutch Football Association, two ex-football players (one of them being gay himself) and a football journalist.

Of course this could all be a clever way to bring more attention to their special. Because we’re dealing with BNN here, who also fooled the world with their Big Donor Show. Let’s hope that this is a similar situation.

FC Gay, Saturday August 04, 19:55, Nederland 3.

Sources: [WTF.nl] [Veronica Magazine] [Twitter]

Fighting Homophobia in the Stands

July 5, 2012

 Football fans take a stand against homophobia in German stadiums. The campaign is self-organized – and not well received everywhere.

Cup der Angst, Hamburg, May 28 2012

BERLIN taz | It all started in the middle of the year. Fans of Tennis Borussia Berlin started to plan a campaign for an event from “Fans Against Racism in Europe”.

With logistical support by the Lesbian and Gay Association of Berlin-Brandenburg, a purple banner reading “Football Fans Against Homophobia” and the image of two kissing football players was sent on a journey through a few German states. The campaign ran itself.

For months now the banner has been traveling and in a new stadium almost every week. The whole thing stays very close to its roots and organizes itself as Christian Rudolph, spokesman for the lead initiative “Football fans against homophobia”, explains: “We only coordinate the principle. On location, the campaign is run by the respective fan groups.” The transportation of the traveling banner is organized by the groups themselves.

This action has been received overwhelmingly well by most fans. Still every now and then there are some bad reactions – especially on the Internet. When the banner was put up in the Hamburger SV’s stadium, rude remarks were made in the guest book of the fan project.

Champions League Final Bayern Chelsea, May 19 2012

“Such reactions might not be nice, but they confirm our belief” says David Duddeck, member of the Anti-Discrimination AG in Hamburg, “because if everything was peace, joy and pancakes, anti-discriminatory commitment would bascially no longer be neccessary” . The majority of those who speak on the Internet take a stand against homopobia though.

“Bafögschwuchteln”

Something else happened to the fans of VfL Halle 96 when they put the banner up in the stands this October during a home game against Lokomotive Leipzig. “The Lokomotive fans insulted us as “Bafögschwuchteln”, Bafög* fags, others sang the “Subway Song”** or wanted to fight,” recalls Thomas Korbmann, a fan of the VfL Halle.

“Since Lok won the game, it has remained relatively quiet. Any other result would have been very uncomfortable for us.” The majority of their own fans, however, supported the campaign.

Women’s Champion’s League Final May 17 2012

It remains difficult to do something effective against homophobia among football fans even though in almost every stadium there are a number of fans who clearly oppose discriminatory behavior.  For many supporters, insulting the rival fans and offending their players using the word “gay” still belongs to the world of football.

 

*Bafög is a certain amount of money that students in Germany can get if they don’t have enough to afford their studies themselves at the time.

**The Subway Song: »Ihr könnt nach Hause fahrn, Ihr könnt nach Hause fahrn. Eine U-Bahn, eine U-Bahn bauen wir, von St. Pauli bis nach Ausschwitz, eine U-Bahn bauen wir«

(‘You can go home, you can go home. A subway, a subway we’ll build, from St. Pauli to Auschwitz, a subway we’ll build.’)

Source: Taz.de

 

Join the Red Card Homophobia Team!

June 19, 2012

Hello everyone!

As you may have noticed, RCH has not been very active of late and it is because we have lost a few mods and there are increasing time restraints on those who remain.

In order for RCH to remain active we need new volunteers to join our team.

Obviously we are going to continue to promote equality in football and the community and blog are not going to disappear, but in order for RCH to reach its potential (or get back to the momentum we had last summer) we need new volunteers to join.

We are looking to fill a variety of positions, varying from maintaining social media sites, writing articles, and promoting RCH through different means. If you just have a general interest in joining please still comment below or email us, every helping hand counts! All we ask for is teamwork and dedication to the cause.

We have a lot of ideas on where we want to take RCH but we are unable to reach our goals without help.

Please email the following information to redcardhomophobia@gmail.com
First name:
Email address:
Explain your interest in joining RCH:
Position that you are interested in:
Estimated Availability:

Antonio Cassano Sparks Euro Controversy

June 14, 2012

Antonio Cassano made headlines recently in a Euro 2012 news conference when he stated that he hopes there are no gay players in the Italy squad.  Media circulated rumors speculated that there were two homosexual players in the team, to which Cassano responded, “Queers in the national team?  That’s their business.  But I hope not.”

Later Cassano issued an apology for his statement, saying “I am sincerely sorry that my comments have caused controversy and protests among gay groups. Homophobia is not a point of view that I share. I didn’t want to offend anyone and I absolutely don’t want to put a person’s sexual freedom under discussion.

“I only said that it was a problem which was nothing to do with me and I don’t let myself express judgments on other people’s choices, which should all be respected.”

A weak apology and one that does not do much to dose the fire of controversy with the inclusion of the “other people’s choices” phrase.  Still, it must be mentioned that this is Antonio Cassano, who is no stranger to public stupidity outbreaks.

Italy manager Cesare Prandelli, who has been supportive of gay footballers in the past, and the rest of the national team have refused to comment on Cassano’s remarks in an attempt to remain focused on upcoming matches.

Source:[The Guardian]

FA Charges 3 Players Over Homophobic Tweets

March 1, 2012

The English FA has charged 3 players this week after they made homophobic comments on Twitter.  Federico Macheda (QPR, on loan from Manchester United), Nile Ranger (Newcastle), and Manny Smith (Walsall) were accused of “acting in a way which was improper and/or brought the game into disrepute. It is further alleged that the breach included a reference to a person’s or persons’ sexual orientation.”  This action follows the FA’s punishment of Ravel Morrison last week, when the West Ham player was fined  £7,000 and warned of his future conduct.  The players had until 4pm GMT to respond to the charges.

The tweets in question range from possible typo to unquestionable abusive language.  Macheda claims he did not mean to tweet “shhh you stupid little gay”, but “stupid little guy” when responding to a fan on the social media site.  Ranger is being charged with calling a fan “Faggot”, and Smith for responding to a tweet upset with the recent form of Walsall with “ur defo a queer u belend!”

Smith already has apologized for his comments in person and issued the following statement:

“I would like to publicly apologise to Kevin. The comments were borne out of frustration and were tweeted in the heat of the moment. I deeply regret them. I realise that, as a professional sports person, I am a role model and my conduct, both in person and via social networking sites, should reflect this. I met with Kevin in person and apologised to him face-to-face.  I just want to concentrate on my football and help Walsall maintain our League One status. I apologise to all our supporters and everyone connected with the club for this unfortunate incident.”

A spokesperson for the club added: “We would like to place on record our zero tolerance attitude to such behaviour.

“We will be dealing with this matter, in its entirety, internally with guidance from the various governing bodies.”

Sources: [BBC Sport] [Pink Paper]

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