French Club Refuses to Register Gay Footballer
French amateur football club FC Chooz has refused to register player Yoann Lemaire because he is gay. Lemaire played for FC Chooz for 14 years before taking a sabbatical last year after teammates used homophobic slurs on television. When Lemaire submitted his desire to return to the team this season, the executive committee chose to deny his license “to avoid further incidents.”
In May 2009, Lemaire’s teammates were overheard using homophobic slurs in front of French television cameras. The players suffered no penalty; the president of the club told Lemaire that to do so would be “discriminatory.” Lemaire chose to take a yearlong sabbatical from the team, during which he wrote a book about his experiences as a gay footballer.
In June 2010, Lemaire met with the teammates involved in the incident, the French Football Federation, the club, and other interested parties. After receiving an apology from his teammates, Lemaire made the decision to return to his club.
However, a few days before rejoining the team for training, Lemaire began receiving threats and homophobic slurs from a former head of FC Chooz through the social networking website Facebook. The current president, Frederick Coquet, told Lemaire that the former member has had nothing to do with the club since 2007 and that Lemaire needed to settle his personal problems outside the club. A month later, Coquet and the rest of the Executive Committee of FC Chooz decided to deny Lemaire his license.
Coquet explained, “Yoann harmed the club. It goes against the goal, the fight against homophobia that the club supports. The club is not homophobic and if it was I’d have left a long time ago and the Mayor would have cut off financial aid.”
The organization Paris Foot Gay is asking the French Football Federation to sanction the team. The organization said punishment is needed to show the football world “that homophobia is as bad as racism and anti-Semitism.” Rama Yade, the French Junior Sport Minister, has also said that legal action should be taken against the club, stating that “If homophobia is proved in this case… our law is sufficiently developed to punish such behaviour.”