Outgoing United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay is calling on gay World Cup players to come out “without fear” to help gays and lesbians become more accepted around the world, Reuters reports.
Declaring their sexuality is the only way athletes will gain acceptance, Pillay says, adding that it’s important that their fans get that message as well.
Pillay, who steps down from the post Sept 1, called it “a shame in this day and age” that people still have to hide who they are. “There’s an increasing realisation that combatting discrimination requires more than superficial measures that do not change attitudes or address the root causes of inequality,” she told media in Geneva.
After coming out and initially retiring from soccer in February 2013, Robbie Rogers signed with the LA Galaxy three months later and got a warm reception from fans as he ran onto the field May 26.
Still, there are those who are wary about coming out, citing slurs heard on the field and from the stands.
A young German footballer, who requested anonymity, recently told Deutsche Welle (DW) that after his teammates found out he is gay, they wore underwear while showering.
He says neither his friends on the team nor his coach stepped up to support him. “In hindsight, my coach didn’t react correctly. Maybe he was just unable to cope with the situation. I don’t want to point any fingers. But I do think he should have supported me and not just done nothing.”