A long overdue front page
This weekend the Daily Mirror revealed that two Premier League stars, including one England international, are preparing to come out as gay before the end of the season.
The reaction on social media was encouragingly supportive, suggesting that after all these years English football fans are ready to embrace and support gay footballers. However, one recurring theme of comments did grate on me. This is people asking “why is this news? This shouldn’t be news, it’s 2015”.
This is news. It’s a huge step forward for the sport and for the LGBT community for whom role models in top level sport are still fewer and further between than they should be. To say this is ‘not news’ is to undermine the bravery of the players involved and the effect that it has when the media cover it, and cover it positively.
The impact of top level sport people coming out should not be under estimated. It makes wider conversations so much easier. I have first-hand experience of this. When Tom Daley came out in 2013 my young niece spoke to my sister in law about it. My sister in law replied “yes, lots of people are gay”. My niece replied “like who?” The reply named a few other celebrities and then “and your auntie Emma is gay”. My niece replied “oh ok”, and carried on playing Moshi Monsters.
The conversation was made easy by Tom’s bravery in stepping forward and making it a commonplace topic for a generation of young people.
About ten years ago I saw Max Clifford say at a CIPR event that he would “absolutely not” recommend to a Premier League player to come out as gay. I sat in the audience and despaired slightly.
Now, thanks to the example of people like Tom Daley, Gareth Thomas, Casey Stoney and Keegan Hirst, along with the excellent work of Stonewall and Paddy Power’s rainbow laces campaign, we as a nation of football fans seem ready to accept gay players in the Premier League.
Let’s not play down that this is news. Because it is news. It’s absolutely brilliant news.