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We Can't Lift Barriers to LGBTI Participation If Sport Doesn't Understand Our Complaint

11/12/2015 17:26 GMT | Updated 11/12/2016 10:12 GMT

As I write this over 135,000 people have signed my petition asking the BBC to remove Tyson Fury from the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist. 135,000 voices the BBC have, thus far, chosen to ignore.

Fury made headlines at the beginning of November after conflating homosexuality and paedophilia in an interview with the Mail on Sunday, he said, "There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the Devil comes home. One of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other is paedophilia. So who would have thought in the 50s and early 60s that those first two would be legalised."

As well as being fined for homophobic remarks by the boxing board of control in 2012 Fury has made sexist remarks saying of fellow nominee Jessica Ennis-Hill that she "slaps up well", and the best place for a woman "is in the kitchen or on her back".

Given that Fury has made repeated discriminatory homophobic and sexist remarks is it not the responsibility of the national broadcaster to, when nominating for a prestigious award, take into account these views? I think so. Our ask, that Fury be removed from the shortlist, is not an attempt to stifle free speech. Fury is entitled to his views, however wrong. What he is not entitled to is to be lauded by our public sector broadcaster.

The BBC has said in its defence that "Fury's inclusion on the shortlist did not mean SPOTY endorsed his personal views", while many sports journalists have written articles saying that while they disagree with Fury's views, he should remain on the shortlist.

In my many media interviews this week I posed the question that had Fury espoused racist views we would not be having this debate right now, that he would not have been considered for the shortlist let alone removed from it. It's a view that most have accepted.

The effects of racism and homophobia are the same, they devalue human beings, increase rates of suicide and self-harm, cause mental health problems and stop our young people reaching their full potential.

The BBC is now in the position where the rights of a minority are being voted on by the rights of the majority. Arguments that Fury should stay on the shortlist, but receive no votes, are at best hopeful and at worst naive. Fury has become the poster boy for some people with ugly views (one look at my twitter account can confirm that). Every vote received for Fury sets the gains we have made for LGBTI inclusion in sport back.

The now countless articles from the sports commentariat all seem to have a common theme - 'Fury's views are wrong, but it's about sport, innit' - most ignore the BBC's own criteria that panel members "take into account 'impact' over and beyond the sport or sporting achievement in question", and many forget to mention the role of their sports editors in selecting the shortlist in the first place.

More worryingly this whole episode has demonstrated that, for all the gains we have made, many still simply do not understand our issues as an LGBTI community and why we feel so strongly. They haven't lost someone to homophobia or transphobia, they haven't seen the self-harm, the bullying or the suffering it causes. If they had, they would understand our anger.

The sports sector has to accept that sport does not exist in a vacuum. That, like it or not, sportspersons ARE role models, their views and opinions are listened to by armies of fans. By nominating Fury for the sports PERSONALITY award the BBC are putting Fury up as a role model to young people around the UK and the world. They are sending a message that LGBTI people are second class citizens, that LGBTI people are not welcome in sport.

The barriers to LGBTI people in sport remain huge, years of homophobia have had their toll on LGBTI inclusion but with sporting ambassadors like Nicola Adams, the openly bisexual Olympic and Commonwealth medal winning boxer, and huge efforts by the LGBTI and sports sectors coming together we are making inroads. Sport is making an effort, but if BBC Sport and sports journalists cannot understand our complaint then we are further behind than we thought.

The BBC must remove Fury from the shortlist, and make a statement that it does not agree with his views. Saying his shortlisting is 'not an endorsement of his views' is simply not enough. Thus far the BBC have refused, despite growing public debate, to even acknowledge they might have a problem. If we can't acknowledge the problem we can't even begin to work on the solution.