‘Gay men don’t play sports because it’s too manly’. These were the words of Neil Francis, former Irish rugby international, and they landed him in very hot water when speaking on ‘Off the ball’. When on the Newstalk radio segment Francis was discussing the issues surrounding the winter Olympics, paying particular attention to homophobia.
Francis claimed that he was not viewing the Olympics due the fact that these issues were not relevant. He stated his belief that there was only 1 %, not 10% of sportsmen living as a homosexual. What was possibly the worst statement made by Francis is that he said that if a rugby player was to come out, it would cause the player to lose his edge due to abuse and constantly being under the spotlight.
On a general level, homosexuality in sports is a taboo subject, but having someone such as Neil Francis discussing such a sensitive topic is reckless and irresponsible. This is evident in the opinionated manner he discusses this topic. His radical and idealistic views have caused a massive backlash on social media, examples of which can be seen at Joe.ie.
Is there any truth in what Francis has said?
In my personal opinion, there is no substance to anything Francis says in this interview. It is true that statistically there are far less than 10% of elite athletes that are openly gay however there is a major stigma based around the idea of masculinity that needs to be addressed.
Gareth Thomas was the first professional sports person to come out for being gay, while still playing at the top level. He described his as ‘living a lie’ and he has been extremely open when discussing his life, up until he revealed his sexuality at 35.
Here is a short video of Gareth Thomas discussing male stereotype:
‘I kept my sexuality hidden, fearful of the reactions around me and rugby was a good way of hiding it all.’ that is a quote from the documentary ‘Gareth Thomas – Coming Out: My Secret Past’.
For Francis to say that a gay sportsmen should not come out in order to keep ‘his edge’ is amazingly narrow minded and shows that these are the types of stereotypes that people like Thomas have had to deal with all their lives Plainly, this issue of homophobia is not something to be shied away from.
Is the issue of Homosexuality in Sport really addressed properly? Please comment below your views.