What is preventing professional sports players from coming out of the closet? We've heard so many debates about locker room concerns and how the game would change on the field, court, pitch if a player was out on a pro team. Jermaine Jenas, a straight soccer player (footballer) whom has been accused of being gay in the past, shared with Yahoo Sports his thoughts as to why more players are not coming out. He believes it is not because of the fear of not being accepted by fellow players.
Last week's newspaper claim that two Premier League players are set to come out has gay has got everyone talking, not least footballers. Just like the fans, I've had the same conversations with fellow players and pundits over the last few days and been asked, "Who do you think it is?" But sadly for you, I'm not about to reveal their identities. I couldn't if I wanted to. No one I've spoken to has a clue who the players are, or if the story is even true. What I am sure about is that gay footballers exist, but I'm not surprised we still haven't seen one come out.
I have never come across a single player who has come out in English football, but that's not because of players' attitudes. The place a gay player would get the most support – and the least amount of problems – is from their team-mates. When you're in a football team you're in it together, no matter what, and every player would accept a gay team-mate with no problem whatsoever. This is something that has already been borne out in the rugby world, but the difference between football and rugby is what happens on the terraces.
Without wanting to sound rude, a rugby crowd is a bit different to a football one, and it's a fear of being abused at away grounds that most prevents footballers coming out. Football is a game where we still have fans meeting up for a pre-match scrap – we're talking borderline caveman stuff. You can imagine the homophobic songs that would rear their heads if a football player came out as gay.
I can't pretend that footballers are all lovely people who will be on the pitch saying, "Well done for coming out. That was very brave." It's a cut-throat business where people are trying to find a weakness and get a reaction, so a gay player would certainly have to deal with that.
There would be banter in their own changing room too, but that's just part of football. My former Tottenham team-mate Robbie Keane plays at LA Galaxy with Robbie Rogers, who came out in 2013. He tells me the players have a bit of banter about it, and Rogers joins in, but it isn't remotely an issue. The players aren't really the issue; it's the rest of the game. – uk.sports.yahoo.com
For more on this take on gays in professional sports, go to uk.sports.yahoo.com
Do you agree that the pressure is on the fans to be more welcoming of gay players?
Is that where the biggest stressor is in the coming out process for professionals?