#ProudtoPlay: Sport lags behind society on gay rights

And it’s not just the LGBT community who suffer - sports teams do too

Share

The past eighteen months has been a very active period in the battle for LGBT equality in sport. From NBA player Jason Collins coming out as the first openly gay player to appear in any of America's major sporting leagues, to a winter Olympics tarnished by association with the host country’s homophobia, and an NFL draft that featured its first gay kiss - there has been an increasing awareness that sport has an important role to play in progressing LGBT rights.

But in many cases, the sporting world still has a long way to go.  I am firmly of the belief that LGBT inclusion in all sport has been behind the example set by society, but, at last, momentum seems to be building.

I want to make it clear that I believe the issue of LGBT inclusion is not about being ‘nice’ to ‘the gays’ but rather about making sure all environments - including the previously hostile area of sport - are welcoming and accessible to everyone.

In a professional sense, elite sport would benefit greatly by taking advantage of this momentum for change. The bottom line in any sport should be ensuring that you have access to every single talented individual who could help the team win, no matter of their sexuality. By creating an environment where everyone is encouraged to be their true selves, sport not only becomes more relevant and relatable to a wider audience - it radically expands its pool of potential future stars.

For the majority of us, including myself now, sport isn’t about winning - except maybe the battle against the bulge. Instead, it’s about the increasingly rare opportunity to just play; to spend time with old friends and make new ones, to challenge old bones to one more game and bask in the camaraderie when that game is done.

In a world filled with stress and worry, this opportunity to play can quite literally be a lifesaver. But for many in the LGBT community, being a part of mainstream sport has not felt like an option. After all, who would want to come home from a tough day and join a team where you could feel marginalised, abused and even unsafe?

I’m proud to support the Proud To Play campaign, and think it is particularly timely. It mirrors the changing attitude towards LGBT equality outside sport, and because of this I hope the campaign will inspire all the various sporting governing bodies, along with everyone who simply loves to play, to make sure that sport can be enjoyed by everyone.

Because with the World Cup on the horizon, this is a pivotal moment for equality in sport.

From mega-events to community sport, whether coaching, watching or participating, a little thought and compassion can create an environment where everyone free to play without compromising who they are.

I hope that the #ProudToPlay initiative will help people start that conversation in their homes, schools and sporting clubs across the country. Every person who joins with the sporting superstars in the #ProudToPlay video by proclaiming their support for inclusiveness is a part of a continuing and much needed, change for the better.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The reign of the cupcake may be at an end  

Gluten-free diets reveal more about Western anxieties than they do about the protein

Memphis Barker
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence