Talk about a show of solidarity and party on the field. A coalition of LGBT+ groups are urging gay and trans footballers in the world’s most popular sport to, at the very least, speak up on controversial issues like player bullying.
The coalition, which includes the English-based Stonewall and LGBT+ rights group Stonewall Action, wrote an open letter to every football federation asking each to sign a commitment not to tolerate homophobia and transphobia in and around football.
The letter points out that a number of LGBT players have already publicly revealed they’ve been the victims of abuse during games.
A few weeks ago, striker Eni Aluko made headlines after her allegations about being the victim of racial, ethnic and sexual abuse by Newcastle United staff were made public. However, Newcastle United quickly slapped her with a £50,000 ($64,682) fine by the club and filed a complaint against her with the Premier League. They made the case that their own investigation found Aluko was a victim of bullying but she said she hadn’t known that.
LGBT+ Sports and Culture (LGBTSCP) editor Tom Russell told Fox News he believes reports of victimization of LGBT athletes should remain a secret for now.
“A truth is a precious thing. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tell it,” he said. “To the teams, if we’re writing to you, say, ‘We have concerns about certain individuals being outed or outed publicly, it could have an impact on their careers.’ They’ve said that to a lot of these clubs. As a result, some clubs have put some measures in place.”
Russell told Fox News that the open letter is also urging players not to shy away from speaking out about the issues.
“We think that people should be able to speak their mind about things like this because it’s something that affects the football club or the footballers themselves,” he said. “That would be the first step in getting them to tell the truth about things.”
Russell said the pressure on these players could lead to a radical improvement in player safety.
“The fear that is growing is that young footballers will end up being bullied or harassed or leaving the sport because they’re intimidated into the sense that they cannot be themselves.”
Sean Goldman, an England qualified player and trans activist said he thinks the letter is the only way forward for the LGBT+ community and he shared similar thoughts to Russell.
“At the moment with all of the athletes who are coming out and coming out on these sports platforms, one of the biggest problems is that they aren’t really voicing what is going on in front of the public. I think that this has to happen because we can’t continue to just say it’s on everyone else but the fact is all of these forces are blocking people from being who they are and being themselves.”
Goldman said it will be up to the players to implement policy changes that are right for the LGBT+ community but he pointed out that some teams are already committed to making changes.
“We have to look to leagues that have done the right thing, like one of the worst-performing leagues in the whole of the world [Mexico] and actually have programs where players are part of their clubs. The only way to really make an impact is to become a part of a big platform, like the Premier League.”