USA worst English speaking country for gay sportsmen

Michael Sam came out  in February 2014

Michael Sam came out in February 2014

A study on homophobia in sport has found that the USA is the worst English speaking country in the world when it comes to acceptance of gay sportsmen.

The Out on the Fields survey focused on the USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. South African was not included in the survey.

The results were released on the one year anniversary of openly gay American football star Michael Sam being drafted to the NFL.

Ironically, the study found gay male athletes in the USA were the most likely to remain in the closet due to fear of discrimination from coaches and officials.

It further found that 78% of American young people believe youth sport is not safe or supportive of LGB people.

Americans were also the most likely to report witnessing or experiencing homophobia in sports, which contributed to the USA being ranked the lowest of the six major English speaking countries on inclusion of LGB people in sport.

University of Massachusetts Professor Pat Griffin, a specialist in the field, commented that Sam’s failure to sustain an NFL career after coming out the closet may reinforce the fears of other LGB sportspeople about coming out.

“I think we have a generation gap which reinforces the fears that LGB athletes have about possible discrimination. Most straight team members are fine with having an LGB teammate but high school and college coaches, professional sport team owners and officials still have a ways to go and this may affect how athletes feel about coming out,” she said.

Overall, the study found that homophobia was very common in all of the nations surveyed, but some did slightly better than others. Canada was the most inclusive country, followed by Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland and the US, in sixth place.

Across the six nations, 80% of participants said they had witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport. Strikingly, 62% of all participants and 73% of gay men believe homophobia is more common in team sports than the rest of society in their country.

Robbie Rogers (Pic: Noah Salzman)

Robbie Rogers (Pic: Noah Salzman)

Many of the men who don’t play team sports (44%), said that negative experiences in school PE class had turned them off playing these kind of sports.

US footballer Robbie Rogers, one of the world’s only current, openly gay male professional athletes, said he was “disappointed” by the results, but expressed hope that the survey will help to change the status quo.

“This change can start with every athlete or fan who decides not to use homophobic language even if it’s meant as humour. This kind of language is no longer acceptable because everyone should be able to enjoy sports without fear of discrimination,” said Rogers.

“National and international sports governing bodies, including the NFL and FIFA, need to make committed and determined efforts to ensure LGBTI people feel welcome,” the LA Galaxy player added.

Out on the Fields is the largest study of its kind, with 9,494 participants of all sexualities. The research was conducted on behalf of a coalition of LGBTI sports groups, including the Bingham Cup (world cup of gay rugby) and the Federation of Gay Games.

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