Not since Justin Fashanu in the 1990's has a Premier League footballer come out as gay.
However, with statistics suggesting approximately one in 10 people are homosexual or bisexual, this figure should surely be much higher. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there is a social stigma surrounding gay men in sport. This is tragically emphasised by the case of the aforementioned Fashanu, who took his own life in 1998 following years of vile homophobic abuse and rumours regarding his personal life.
Admittedly huge strides have been made since then in sport, so much so that USA international Robbie Rogers, then of Leeds United, became just the second openly gay footballer in England last year. We have also seen England Women's captain Casey Stoney admit that she also homosexual.
It was thought that this would open the floodgates, or at least begin to see a few more come out. We are, though, still yet to see another follow suit, despite rumours that a member of the England squad was gay and was preparing to announce it. However, following the case of Rogers, I can understand why somebody may be reluctant to come out as gay in the current conditions, and not due to fears of homophobic abuse from fans.
Let's be honest: with the greatest of respect to the man, Rogers was not an outstanding player and was certainly not well-known. He barely got on the pitch during his time at Leeds and failed to catch the eye with Stevenage. Hardly a superstar.
Yet upon coming out he was universally know, instantly becoming a household name and being hunted down for interviews left, right, and centre. Rogers himself admitted that he retired immediately after the announcement in order to avoid the "circus" created by the press and fans. Thankfully, he has subsequently returned to the game and can act as a role model to other young, gay athletes who wrongly fear their sexuality may hold them back.
Even this has a hint of suspicion: it has been suggested that LA Galaxy, arguably America's biggest club, are merely using him for publicity purposes rather that for his talent. This is another concern for a player coming out - will anybody take my achievements on the pitch seriously? Or will I just be remembered as "the gay one"?
Let's imagine a Premier League player, greater in stature than Rogers, were to come out as homosexual or bisexual. The "circus" would be one hundred times more frantic. For somebody who is focused on becoming a top level professional it makes no sense to come out when all this intense media scrutiny will just hold you back.
Call me an idealist, but I believe that times have changed and that football fans would accept a gay footballer with barely the raise of an eyebrow. But it is important that the media does something similar.
I appreciate the importance of a player for the gay community to look upon and what a difference it could make. I understand that it is a big deal. But it is a huge amount of pressure for an individual to shoulder, and perhaps the best way to help this brave trailblazer is to remove some of this pressure.
Eventually I hope that we will see a gay footballer somewhere in English football, and I sincerely believe that they will not suffer the same tragic fate as Fashanu. I just hope that the press supports them - acknowledge the fact that they are homosexual and celebrate it, but also remember that they are a footballer, and they are the same as any other footballer. Do not make them a special case. Do not thrust them into the limelight at every possible occasion. Just treat them like any other footballer.
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