Rumors have abounded for years about closeted athletes, and many come out after they retire, not during their career. There are some pro-athletes that have taken the plunge and have come out while still being active in their sports. Take Robbie Rogers and Gus Kenworthy, two young men that are not afraid to be known as members of the LGBT community. Michael Sam tried to "go pro" in the NFL, but was sadly not successful.
So we have a handful that are out and a possibility of others ready to be honest with the world. How prevalent are gay athletes?
An ex-Premier League soccer player says that when he played, there were three gay players on his team. Carl Hoefkens, who played for multiple leagues in England, has said that the players were open about who they were, but asked the team to be quite about it.
The 39-year-old Hoefkens said:
I played alongside three gay footballers, including one who was a genuinely big name. One was at Club Brugge, and the other two were in England. I won't name names as I respect their requests. They did not hide who they were in the dressing-room. One of them would even arrive at training with his boyfriend. They asked us to keep quiet to the outside world, but don't ask me why.
Hoefkens is straight, but did pose in a gay magazine. He finds it weird that people can't play soccer and be 'out.'
I find it strange that homosexuality is still a taboo in football. It is a pity. My parents always taught me that all men are equal, including their sexual orientation. I hope that a top player will one day stand up and announce: 'I'm gay – so what?' Then the taboo will finally disappear. If I were gay I would do it for certain. This is something that is generally accepted in society after all.
We couldn't agree more that people should be treated equally and that sexual orientation should not hinder someone playing sports. We just need more people like Hoefkens on our side and proclaiming it when they can.
While we have seen sports cultures become more accepting over the past few years, it would be amazing to see more pro-athletes come out, be themselves, and make the world of sports an even more open place.
H/T: Inside World Soccer