This week Jason Collins became the first active NBA star to come out as gay. So So Gay reported how Collins came out in an interview with Sports Illustrated. ‘When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged,’ he said. ‘I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue.’
Collins took to Twitter to thank people for the support he has been shown since he came out.
All the support I have received today is truly inspirational. I knew that I was choosing the road less traveled but I’m not walking it alone
— Jason Collins (@jasoncollins34) April 29, 2013
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that eight British professional footballers have come out to team mates but fear the reaction of fans and the media. Earlier this year former Leeds United footballer Robbie Rogers came out, but only after announcing his retirement from the game.
The Gay Footballers Supporters Network told the Observer that Clarke Carlisle, chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, had revealed that eight players had approached him to disclose that they were gay. All but one told him that the reason they would not come out publicly was not the reaction from their fellow players or their club, but the potential reaction from the media and supporters.
Chris Basiurski, chair of the Gay Football Supporters’ Network, said, ‘The danger is not so much coming out, but what happens next.’
‘One of the problems Justin Fashanu found was that he was the first black millionaire player, and a lot of things were expected of him on the pitch at Nottingham Forest and it didn’t really work out. When that happened, the dressing room and the management used his sexuality as a thing to bash him with.’
In an interview with So So Gay, the world’s only openly gay professional footballer, Anton HysÃ©n said ‘I think most people are afraid of losing their spot in the team and getting left out. I also believe players are afraid of the reactions of fans, fellow players and sponsors. I just feel that there is only one reason why we all play football and that’s because we love it. We are not there to do something else, just show passion for the sport.’
Basiurski told The Observer that the organisation had heard reports of professional players whose sexuality was a secret guarded inside the game.
‘We have anecdotal evidence that players are out within their clubs and don’t have a problem. But we are trying to create an atmosphere for people to come out safely, but at the moment there is a big barrier. The fact is, we have never really tested the fans, both home or away, on this.
‘The danger is what happens when a player comes out and gets loads of support and attention, but then start 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.’
Following Jason Collins’ announcement, it will be interesting to see what the reaction is from fans and what impact it has across all sports.