Earlier in the year Fifa Spokesman Sepp Blatter caused controversy when he said that gay football fans should abstain from having sex during the 2022 World Cup, which is set to be in Qatar, a country where homosexuality is illegal.
Arguably one of the main reasons homophobia remains in sport is that until recently no high-profile sports stars had ever come out as gay, fearing reprisals from fans and teammates alike. This changed in 2009 when accomplished professional Rugby player Gareth Thomas came out as gay. Apart from one incident of homophobic abuse by Castleford fans ,Thomas has been embraced by the Rugby and Gay communities alike and claims to have received no trouble from his teammates or fans. Thomas is also not afraid to speak out for the gay community, when sportswoman Clare Balding complained to the press watchdog about a comment referring to her as a dike on a bike, Thomas publicly supported her, despite admitting that he thought the rhyme, but not the sentiment, was quite funny.
Thomas recently revealed he is working with a scriptwriter on a film about his life which is set to star Oscar nominated actor Mickey Rourke. The casting was sceptically received by almost everyone but Rourke seems genuinely passionate about the role and in response to a Tweet criticizing the move Thomas said:
“My story is of feelings, and overcoming. It’s about bringing the inside out, it has nothing to do with a visual presence.”
Whether or not the film proves a success Thomas has lain down the gauntlet for other top sports stars to come out, this hasn’t happened in the 2 years since Thomas did but it’s still a very positive step and hopefully encourage the next generation of athletes.