Fear Factor: Football Star Cautious About Gay Players Coming Out

Sunday February 21, 2021

Héctor Bellerín
Héctor Bellerín   (Source:Arsenal)

British ex-football player Thomas Beattie spoke eloquently about his life since coming out, but those still playing in the sport think the climate isn't right now for an active player to come out. That is the opinion of LGBTQ ally, Arsenal team member Héctor Bellerín, who told London's Sunday Times (story behind a firewall) that stigma still pervades, making coming out difficult for any soccer player to step forward.

"Bellerín said he has heard shocking stories of discrimination from members of the Gay Gooners, Arsenal's LGBT+ supporters group," reports PinkNews.

Asked if he thought any players would come out in the near future, Bellerín said: "I don't know if football is ready for that yet."

He continued: "I'm having conversations with Gay Gooners, and sometimes they go to an Arsenal pub and they'll have issues with other Arsenal fans because they're wearing a Gay Gooners scarf or something.

"Gay Gooners is the first and largest LGBTQ fans group for a major football club in England, with hundreds of members in the UK and overseas," reads its description on the team's website.

"Gay Gooners exists to provide a social group for LGBTQ Arsenal fans and their friends to meet up , provide a safe and welcoming space, and campaign to kick homophobia out of football."

"Bellerín is one the more vocal members of the team to support LGBTQ rights, and finds it weird that such discrimination continues to exist. "Which, to me, is crazy. We're all part of the same family.

"It is somehow a taboo subject... We can have talks in the dressing room about all this stuff, but I've never heard of anyone [being gay]," he added.

"No one's ever heard of anyone. I would say if there was someone who knew someone, they will keep it quiet anyway. For the sake of that person, like, trying to protect them."

History has shown that Bellerín's caution is correct. Only one player, Justin Fashanu, came out while playing the sport in 1990. He tragically died by suicide eight years later, writes Pink News. Beattie, who played professionally for teams in Scotland, Norway, Canada and Singapore, was retired when he came out last June. Robbie Rogers, an American who played for Leeds FC, came out after leaving the club in 2013.

Last May, Amal Fashanu, the late football star's niece, spoke to The Sun that the Justin Fashanu Foundation, which focuses on racism, homophobia and mental health in the sport, has been in touch with five professional gay footballers who are afraid to come out publicly. "Two are Premier League stars said to be living in torment and who have confided in some teammates," writes The Sun. "The others are from football league clubs. All five are said to be recognisable names."

But she believes another player will come out while playing the sport in the next five years. "No one wants to be the first. In their minds these guys are trapped, ashamed. They think society won't accept it so instead they live their lives in secret.

"It's sad that this has to happen. But they would be a trailblazer."

Adding, "One in ten men are gay so the idea there aren't lots playing football doesn't add up."

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