Philipp Lahm: A Red Card Homophobia Champion
Most of us only associate Philipp Lahm with football. This is no surprise as the German player has achieved many things despite his young age in the football world. At just 26 years old, he was given the captain’s armband of the German national team, replacing Michael Ballack who was relieved of captaincy due to injury. Lahm, a defender for German club FC Bayern Munich, led the team to an impressive performance during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa before bowing out to eventual champions, Spain, in the semi-final rounds.
However, unbeknownst to many, Lahm is an equally impressive man off the pitch. Aside from his football skills, he is one of the few footballers who have been vocal in support of LGBTQ rights. Philipp Lahm is this month’s “Red Card Homophobia Champion.”
On September 20, 2008 in Warsaw, Lahm received a Tolerantia Prize for his commitment against intolerance and homophobia in football. The award recognized him as the first national football player to be vocal about his views on homophobia in the world’s most beautiful sport.
In his brief speech during the award ceremony, Lahm said, “For me, it is mainly about humans and their rights. Human rights and human dignity already stand at the top of our constitution. That, to me, is self-evident, for dignity has nothing to do with race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. I enjoy living in an open, liberal society, in which living together in tolerance and without discriminating prejudice is possible. For my understanding of living together consists in treating others the way we would like to be treated ourselves.”
Lahm graced the January/February 2008 cover of German gay magazine, Front Magazin, to speak openly about one of the sporting world’s biggest taboos. In the magazine, he said, “If a player is gay, he is still my team mate and I would never change anything about how I would be around them.”
The Initiativgruppe Schwules Weimarer Dreieck awards the Tolerentia Prize annually to individuals who have made solid efforts in ending homophobia. The award has been handed out to exemplary personalities from Germany, Poland and France since 2006. Aside from Lahm, four other winners were awarded the Tolerentia Prize in 2008.