Footballers Ready to Come Out HAS to Be Headline News

Footballers Ready to Come Out HAS to Be Headline News

It was during a recent Premier League encounter that a group of the home fans discussed whether or not calling someone a "tart" for remaining on the ground following a challenge was indeed homophobic. "I didn't mean 'tart' like 'poof', but like a 'jam tart' - soft," the original commenter responded back to accusations that he was being offensive to any gay fans in the vicinity, in a move that definitely didn't help his defence.

Those who deemed it homophobic were accused of having a "sense of humour by-pass" by those who deemed it not. If there are any question marks over whether something is offensive or not, it's probably best to find a different way to express your thoughts; there's nothing wrong with insinuating a player is acting after a challenge after all. There is if you're suggesting it's because he fancies other men and is therefore weaker for it.

It's also the second week running that that sort of incident happened; in the previous match, a different supporter was regularly branding opposition players "poofs" for staying on the deck.

With the news this weekend that two Premier League stars are ready to publicly announce their sexuality, there was a backlash from large sections of football fans asking if anybody really cared. After all, it's 2015 and we're a much more liberal society, so it doesn't matter who someone sleeps with in their own private time.

There is merit in the argument that two gay footballers shouldn't be front page news. It comes from a lovely thought, but sadly it's a thought that lives in an idealistic world of flowers, hippies and love, where nobody cares about a person's race, religion, gender, or sexuality, and where nobody is prejudged based on characteristics of their being that they are unable to change or control.

While there is racism, sexism, and homophobia - among others - we do not live in that world and while it might be true that two gay Premier League stars would be even readier to reveal their sexualities if it weren't front page news, right now it has to be.

It has to be so that all those who like to shout names like 'faggot' or 'poof' or 'queer' to anybody who stays down after a challenge have to actually confront the issue. It has to be so that any of the young players in the game know and understand that it is not impossible to fancy people of the same gender and be a top level footballer. It has to be so that young gay people don't have to face the taunts and bullying that they currently do - and that previous generations endured - all because of who they find attractive.

Premier League squads can have a maximum of 25 players, so if we take that as a benchmark (since some have fewer, but players under the age of 21 don't count to that tally) across 20 clubs then there are roughly 500 top flight professionals. Not one is openly homosexual, despite that being against all odds. The very idea that the sport is comfortable with gays crumbles since there are none confident enough to come out while playing in any level of the football league.

The very fact that Manchester United defender Luke Shaw, who's a player that faced rumours about his sexuality following the story, took to Twitter to quash it is one thing, but that he was well on the defensive shows how much he believes it could still damage a player's reputation. It shouldn't.

While it's a player's right to remain private, you'd think hiding an entire side of your own being from the press, fans and clubs is actually a lot of hard work unless you fear there'll be a large, negative reaction to it.

It's often asked why in this day and age gay people feel the need to shove their sexuality down the throats of others. Of course, that's a very loaded standpoint - usually coming from a position of people not wanting to deal with things that they're not comfortable with. If you're not at ease seeing two men or two women holding hands, it's easy to say they're making a song and dance about it; out of sight, out of mind and all that.

Anyone who isn't straight needs to come out because the world is hetero-normative. It's assumed a person is part of the majority until otherwise stated. You can't expect gay people not to come out, but then want to assume everyone is straight from the off.

Even the fans report a problem. Stonewall figures show 70 per cent of supporters have heard homophobic abuse, three in five believe it prevents professionals from coming out, and more than half don't think the authorities are doing enough to tackle it.

It might be 2015 and there might be a majority of people who aren't homophobic, but in a crowd of people in an arena of competition where any weaknesses that can be seized upon are so, there's a blurring of the lines of what's acceptable. If someone can be put off with homophobic slurs, then suddenly it seems to be fair game.

Two Premier League footballers being gay is news and it's very important news. The footballers might be ready to come out, but the sport might not be ready for them to - though without anybody taking the plunge and actually doing it, there's the danger the sport will never be ready.

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