An interesting documentary on BBC3 struck up some lively debate among Newcastle and football supporters of all persuasions about gay footballers.
Unfortunately I missed the documentary itself so forgive me for not making reference or doubling up on what was discussed on the program.
From what I gather the general consensus among normal and reasonable folk was one of acceptance, education and open-mindedness towards the subject which is great to see, but why then the reluctance for footballers to be comfortable in coming out to the public about their sexuality?
The hesitancy to do so definitely manifests from fear, but fear of what exactly? The reaction of their colleagues and peers that they train and work with every day? The fear of the media onslaught that may come their way upon going public about it? Is it in fact a fear of rejection from the fans? Or should I say a certain amount of fans.
I don’t have the answer, all I can do is speculate, but my guess would be it would be all of the above, or certainly one of the above depending on individual players circumstances.
I would imagine their teammates, managers etc are just like anyone else in modern society. It is far from the first time they have encountered or worked alongside someone who is gay and would accept it as a part of every day life in the same manner as we do.
On the other side of the coin, maybe I’m wrong on that. When you see certain high profile players embroiled in race rows with opposition players as we have witnessed all too often lately, it makes you think otherwise. Maybe there would be a feeling of animosity from some.
As far as the media is concerned, they have an obligation to accept. No publication or journalist in their right mind would openly condemn homosexuals in football and if they did would no doubt lose all respect and credibility among the reading public.
I think however there is probably a massive fear for a player who is gay that making it public knowledge will bring a media storm their way, for want of a better phrase, made to be the token gay guy and harassed endlessly for stories, comments, you name it.
Whether it be attention motivated by interest, understanding or compassion, it is attention I’m sure any player in question would not particularly be comfortable with. At the end of the day, if they are to be singled out and given such attention, I presume they would much rather it be for footballing reasons than their private life and who or what sex they choose to spend that with.
The final potential motivator of fear is one I think could be a massive influence, especially when we have to witness scenes such as the altercation between the Liverpool fan and Oldham defender Tom Adeyemi, and more recently, the disgusting and pathetic gestures made towards Patrice Evra by a fan last weekend.
Now obviously both cases involved Liverpool fans, and that is unfortunate as I personally know a lot of Liverpool supporters who condemn such actions every bit as much as the next man and are generally a great bunch of supporters. But it has highlighted the fact that there are some, in every fan base, who are living in the dark ages and have no problem racially abusing someone.
I would say this is a definite fear for those players who happen to be homosexual. If it was public knowledge will they come in for the same abuse? Will it in fact be worse, certainly to begin with, as it is something which is a relatively fresh topic in football, but more so because some may see it as even more acceptable to openly abuse someone for being gay rather than being racist.
I can only speculate on to the inner workings of the neanderthal mind, truth is I haven’t a clue what goes through these people’s minds sometimes. What I do know is that neanderthal’s seem to still walk amongst us today and on occasion turn up at football matches.
I’m sure the last thing any player needs is to have someone within earshot while they are playing a match constantly booing, calling them a queer, puff or any other sort of childish uneducated name-calling. Apologies for using those terms to anyone who is offended but merely used to illustrate a point.
All said and done I do understand the fear and reluctance among those who feel they can’t be open about their sexuality. Fact is, generally, it is an alpha-male dominated and supported sport and says a lot about our supposed accepting society that is such an issue for these lads.
The good to come out of things like the documentary, discussion among fans and heightened public awareness is that acceptance comes from such things, and it will do a lot of good to have it in the thoughts of the public rather than being regarded as a taboo subject not to be brushed under the carpet.
Final word goes to Joey Barton, who frustrates one and all at times with his twitter ramblings but at times comes out with something well thought out and insightful that makes us respect his use of position and influence as a high profile player and ever-growing figure in modern social networking.
As well as this, he seems ever-willing to highlight and speak on social issues that really mean something to people, and he should be commended for that.
The more supporters, footballers and influential figures in the game that address the issue and condemn those of narrow thought and bigotry, the sooner it will be something widely accepted and treated as it should be, another norm of modern society.