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Pride Month: sport is still lagging behind in showing support to LGBT+ community

With Pride Month in full flow, sports organisation need to do more to promote acceptance.

On June 28 1970, a march took place through New York honouring the Stonewall riots which had taken place a year before and so began the foundations of Pride month.

A month to celebrate and honour members of the LGBT+ community and their allies, as well as educate the world on their continuing fight for equality and acceptance.

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Pride flags pop up in cafes, restaurants and businesses as well as rainbows being worn in abundance with those in positions of power and influence encouraged to show their support for the movement.

In 2019, the Government estimated that around 1.4 million people aged 16 and over identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual with a further 1.6 million stating they don’t know or would refuse to answer.

That figure is sure to have gone up in recent years as the world attempts to become more welcoming to the LGBT+ community and while campaigns, marches, and petitions continue to grow, the world of sport still feels like its trailing behind in its attitude of support and acceptance.

On 14 May 2022, Paris Saint-Germain wore shirts with rainbow flag numbering on the back in acknowledgement of International Day against Homophobia, and in England’s Nations League match against Germany on Tuesday 7 June 2022, captain Harry Kane wore a rainbow flag captain’s armband.

These moments show that there is a drive there to support the LGBT+ movement, but it is way too small for what is required.

In the English professional football leagues there are around 5,000 male footballers. If we take the figures given by the government which suggest around 3% of the UK population is gay, statistically there are around 150 gay footballers.

However, as of June 2022, there is just one openly gay male footballer in England’s top four divisions.

Blackpool’s Jake Daniels recently came out as gay and is the first openly gay active male footballer in the EFL since Justin Fashanu in 1990.

Daniels was himself inspired to come out after the Australian footballer Josh Cavallo did so in October, becoming the only top-flight male professional footballer in the world to be openly gay.

Norwich City show their support for Jake Daniels, May 2022

While Daniels was inundated with support from other footballers, teams and celebrities around the world, it is marked that we are living in such a world where the societal pressures of being a male footballer create an environment unwilling to accept gay men.

On the face of it, it would appear as if the women’s game has far more open and accepting surroundings for those who come out as members of the LGBT+ community.

The 2019 Women’s World Cup which took place in France was proud to have at least 41 openly gay or bisexual women competing, whereas the men’s tournament the year before had none.

However, despite there being far more openly gay or bisexual women in the world of football, this does not mean that the levels of acceptance are there.

Just as these women are having to fight the sexist and chauvinist comments of being a woman in football, they then find themselves clobbered with homophobia.

Unsurprisingly, this is not just limited to the world of football.

Recently, two of England’s finest female cricketers got married. All-rounder Natalie Sciver married her teammate and one of England’s most successful bowlers, Katherine Brunt.

The England Cricket Twitter account posted a beautiful picture of the couple with the caption, “Our warmest congratulations to Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver who got married over the weekend.”

Nat Sciver and Katherine Brunt recently got married

While they received hundreds of comments congratulating them on their day, predictably the realities of Twitter came crashing down as people piled in with moronic jibes including: “Where are their husbands”; “Can someone explain which one is the husband and which one is wife?” and, as one may imagine, some comments that should be reported rather repeated.

Small groups and support networks have been instigated in order to help promote equality in sport, such as Three Lions Pride or the Rainbow Wall in football, but there is still a severe lack of commitment from the bigger organisations to help combat the abundance of homophobia and absence of acceptance.

While it could be done at any time of the year, Pride Month is a perfect opportunity for those more powerful and influential organisations, such as the FA or UEFA, to instigate a more united drive to ensure that those who are either living in fear of coming out, or those who are already out and suffer the rampant homophobic abuse, can begin to feel safe and supported in the careers they’ve worked tirelessly to forge.