Sports & Recreation
2 min

UK: Eight footballers say they’re gay, fear going public because of fans

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — The Observer reports that Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) chairman Clarke Carlisle has said that at least eight players have told him they are gay, with seven saying they are reluctant to go public because of the potential negative reaction of fans and media.

"We have anecdotal evidence that players are out within their clubs and don't have a problem . . . we are trying to create an atmosphere for people to come out safely, but at the moment there is a big barrier," Gay Football Supporters Network chairman Chris Basiurski says in the report. "The fact is, we have never really tested the fans, both home or away, on this."

Basiurksi adds, "The danger is what happens when a player comes out and gets loads of support and attention, but then starts playing badly. The worry is that fans will start getting on their backs and they may lose the confidence of their manager and it could be connected to their sexuality."

American footballer Robbie Rogers, who played for Leeds United, came out earlier this year but left the club, reportedly by mutual consent, after making the announcement. In a statement on his blog, he said it was his time to "step away" and discover himself away from football. Rogers is now reportedly training with the Los Angeles Galaxy. 

American basketball centre Jason Collins, who has played with a number of teams, most recently the Washington Wizards, in his 12-year NBA career, was hailed last week for coming out while still an active player in a major American sport. Collins's revelation came in the midst of heightened speculation that one or more athletes, still active in their sports, were mulling the prospect of coming out. 

The Atlantic magazine recently published a piece that indicated Collins was not the first gay male athlete still active in a major professional sport to come out, noting that baseball player Glenn Burke, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland As from 1976 to 1979, was open about his sexuality with teammates and friends. The feature says also that Burke didn't hide his sexuality when speaking with sports reporters, but the latter balked at writing about his sexuality in their newspapers back then.  

The Atlantic's Allen Barra writes, "Burke was so open about his sexuality that the Dodgers tried to talk him into participating in a sham marriage. He refused."

Burke died in 1995 from AIDS-related causes, the same year his autobiography, Out at Home, was published.