Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion Staff Group

Sports and the LGBTQ+ community

Pride Month is a global event celebrated throughout June that honours the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. The month provides a chance to reflect on how far the community has come and the journey still left to go.

Even though significant progress has been made over the years in many different industries, including the sports industry, the LGBTQ community continues to face homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and other obstacles in their everyday life.

Here are a couple of the brilliant people who have been a huge part of the LGBTQ+ movement and are paving the way for fellow athletes who still feel unable to come out.

Jake Daniels

Jake Daniels made headlines last month after becoming the UK’s only male professional footballer to currently be publicly out, and the first since Justin Fashanu over 30 years ago. 17-year-old Jake plays as a forward for EFL Championship club Blackpool and made his senior debut for the club last month.

Jake said that fellow sportsmen Josh Cavallo, Tom Daley and Thetford Town manager Matt Morton helped him to come out publicly.

Jake said in an interview with Sky Sports: ‘I asked myself if I should wait until I’ve retired to come out. However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to. Since I’ve come out to my family, my club, and my teammates, that period of overthinking everything and the stress it created has gone.

‘I am hoping that by coming out I can be a role model, to help others come out if they want to’.

Josh Cavallo

Last year Josh Cavallo became the only male top-flight professional footballer in the world to come out as gay. 22-year-old Josh plays as a left back and central midfielder for Australian team Adelaide United.

Josh said via his Twitter account: ‘I am proud to publicly announce I am gay. It’s been a journey to get to this point in my life, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

‘In football, you only have a small window to achieve greatness, and coming out may have a negative impact on a career. As a gay footballer, I know there are other players living in silence. I want to help change this, to show that everyone is welcome in the game of football and deserves the right to be their authentic self.

‘I hope that in sharing who I am, I can show others who identify as LGBTQ+ that they are welcome in the football community’.

Pride Month is a global event celebrated throughout June that honours the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. The month provides a chance to reflect on how far the community has come and the journey still left to go.

Even though significant progress has been made over the years in many different industries, including the sports industry, the LGBTQ community continues to face homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and other obstacles in their everyday life.

Here are a couple of the brilliant people who have been a huge part of the LGBTQ+ movement and are paving the way for fellow athletes who still feel unable to come out.

Tom Daley

Tom Daley is a British diver and back in 2013, released a video on his YouTube channel announcing that he was in a relationship with a man. Tom had previously dated girls and this was his first relationship with a man, but he doesn’t feel the need to put a label on it.

Tom told GQ Magazine: ‘It was kind of traumatic, but then also a very liberating experience. To be honest, I wish I had come out earlier. Since coming out I’ve felt like I could be myself; all that pressure comes off.

‘One thing that’s hard is exploring sexuality in the public eye. I think if I wasn’t in the public eye maybe things would be different.’

Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King, American former world No. 1 tennis player, became the first prominent professional female athlete to publicly come out about her homosexuality back in 1981. Unfortunately, the decision to come out was taken out of her hands by Marilyn Barnett, her former secretary who she had previously had a relationship with.

After the news spread, Billie Jean said her lawyer and press representatives advised her to deny the truth, but Billie Jean told NBC News: ‘This is important to me to tell the truth. The one thing my mother always said: to thine self be true’.

Over the years King has been a huge advocate of gender equality and has been a pioneer for women’s rights.

Jason Collins

NBA player Jason Collins made history back in 2013 when he announced he was gay in a Sports Illustrated cover story, writing, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

Jason was drafted into the Houston Rockets in 2001 and played 12 seasons of basketball before coming out as gay. He played his last season with the Brooklyn Nets and became the first publicly out athlete to play in any of the four major American professional sports (National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL) and National Hockey League (NHL).

In his Sports Illustrated story he said: ‘I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.

‘I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand’.

Megan Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe, who is an American professional soccer player, came out in the July 2012 edition of Out magazine. Megan plays as a winger and captains the OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), and the United States national team.

She said to The Sunday Magazine: ‘It made me more of myself.

‘I think that any time you hide even the smallest part of yourself, you’re not able to fully capture your potential just in life in general. So, I feel like that was part of me… maturing and allowing myself to reach my full potential in all aspects of my life.’

Since then, Megan has been an advocate for LGBTQ rights and equality.

Amy Williams, CIPA

Date published: 24 June 2022


Quotes from:

Jake Daniels – Sky Sports – https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11095/12614531/jake-daniels-blackpool-forward-becomes-uks-first-active-male-professional-footballer-to-come-out-publicly-as-gay

Josh Cavallo – Josh Cavallo Twitter account – https://twitter.com/JoshuaCavallo/status/1453240548404367370?cxt=HHwWlMCwzYil-aooAAAA

Tom Daley – GQ Magazine –  https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/sport/article/tom-daley-interview

Billie Jean King – NBC News and Tennis Majors – https://www.tennismajors.com/our-features/on-this-day/may-1st-1981-the-day-billie-jean-king-was-outed-138210.html

Jason Collins – Sports Illustrated and Insider – https://www.insider.com/professional-athletes-who-are-lgbtq#jason-paul-collins-was-the-nbas-first-openly-gay-player-8

Megan Rapinoe – The Sunday Magazine – https://www.cbc.ca/radio/sunday/the-sunday-magazine-for-november-29-2020-1.5817667/coming-out-made-me-a-better-more-full-person-says-u-s-soccer-star-megan-rapinoe-1.5819650

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