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Homophobia in Sports: When Poor Sportsmanship Becomes a Problem

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Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean-King blazed trails by being out sportswomen before the majority of today’s out, sports playing ladies could even say the phrase ‘gay rights’. For example, there are several members of the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) who proudly wear the ‘out lesbian’ badge next to their Olympic gold medals for football, but these are recent announcements, in part spurred on by the way that was paved before them. The women’s game – any game or sport that is, not just the ‘beautiful’ one – is, by and large, welcoming one of non-heterosexual identities. We have seen the overwhelmingly positive reaction to these stars coming out, but a majority of acceptance does not guarantee no ignorance across every sporting past-time and in the real world, with none of the societal responsibilities granted by the media’s spotlight, things can be far harsher to those who identify as non-heterosexual.

What happens when homophobia makes its way into our real life sports clubs?

We can thrash them. Up, down, left and right, just thrash them with wins until they concede and admit that the non-straight members of the club are wonderful and also wickedly good at tennis/football/whatever their chosen sport may be. Well, it’s easy enough to say that of course but winning the ignorant members into submission could be tricky. Instead, it may be easier to go over their head – is there a club manager or officer or any higher up (we’re talking the money people here) that you can talk to? If there’s one thing that gets club manager’s goats more than rainy days, it’s the threat of a loss of money and a paying customer is still a paying customer even if they happen to be a gay one.

However, if the problem is systematic, what can you do then? The answer isn’t so simple, the deeper the homophobia goes, the higher the action you should (maybe) consider taking. Specifically does your state or country have any anti-discrimination laws in place that combat against this sort of thing? Very often, experiences of homophobia will fall under these laws, especially if actual verbal abuse has been said as that could be classed as harassment, which is technically a crime.

If you’re looking for the other option, the one that ends with the homophobic person in question laughing over a drinks and coming up with new songs to yell about the opposing team, then the best option is usually to talk. Ask the right questions and be understanding that some other people might not be. It’s never your duty to make other people comfortable but sometimes, their ignorance comes from a place of misunderstanding and not hatred. But that said, if talking doesn’t work and there seems to be no other option, take it to the courts, give them a thrashing and get the hard earned victory that you deserve.

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Author
With almost a decade of experience as a journalist, it's the need for equality that drives my writing. With my articles I'd like to help dismantle ignorant thinking one word at a time, or, at the very least, make my readers smile. I also like: cute animals, a good cup of tea and debating which character on Orange is the New Black I'd most like to be BFFs with.

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