At least eight gay players in the English Premier League have revealed their sexuality to their teammates, but have refused to go public because they fear backlash from fans and media, according to The Guardian.
The last British professional soccer player to come out and continue his career was Justin Fashanu in 1990. Fashanu played for four years before committing suicide at age 37, citing the “heavy damage” the backlash to his coming out caused him.
The eight players have approached Professional Footballers’ Association chairman Clarke Carlisle to reveal their sexuality and have gained support from their teammates, according to the report.
From The Guardian’s Mark Townsend:
Chris Basiurski, chair of the Gay Football Supporters’ Network, said that, although progressive attitudes had begun to infiltrate the dressing room, the fear of how supporters would react remained a problem.
“The danger is not so much coming out, but what happens next,” he said. “One of the problems Justin Fashanu found was that he was the first black millionaire player, and a lot of things were expected of him on the pitch at Nottingham Forest and it didn’t really work out. When that happened, the dressing room and the management used his sexuality as a thing to bash him with.”
Basiurski said the organisation had heard reports of professional players whose sexuality was a secret guarded inside the game: “We have anecdotal evidence that players are out within their clubs and don’t have a problem. But we are trying to create an atmosphere for people to come out safely, but at the moment there is a big barrier. The fact is, we have never really tested the fans, both home or away, on this.
“The danger is what happens when a player comes out and gets loads of support and attention, but then start playing badly. The worry is that fans will start getting on their backs and they may lose the confidence of their manager and it could be connected to their sexuality.”
The news comes less than a week after the NBA’s Jason Collins became the first active player in U.S. pro sports to come out.