In the UK a panel debate discussion on Homophobia in Sport formed part of National Student Pride celebrat4d over the weekend.
Delegates emphasised the importance of tackling homophobia and transphobia in British sport said that although they had seen some change, much more action needed to be taken.
On the panel for the debate were rugby star and equal rights advocate Ben Cohen (pictured), John Amaechi - out and proud gay former NBA player, UK Premiership footballer Graeme Le Saux, and Delia Johnston, an anti-transphobia campaigner. The debate was hosted by Evan Davis, presenter for BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
During the debate Cohen suggested that bosses in sports such as Premiership football needed to do more to tackle the problem of homophobia within the sport head on.
He said: “There are many other sports which don’t have that problem. People in the Premiership don’t treat their fellow players with respect. There is no respect for the referee. He doesn’t have any power on the pitch and you have to talk to the top of the game to get that sorted out. Then you feed that through to the grassroots level. In ten years time we will be well on our way to [sportspeople] being judged on your talent, not on your sexuality, and it will be better for the next generation.” he continued.
Cohen went on to say that he thought the British sporting industries were slowly beginning to see forward movement against homophobia in sports, and that he hoped to see a shift going forward.
Amaechi said that in the NBA there had always been players known to be gay, but that they just weren’t open about it to the public. He criticised bosses and referees in sports for attempting to claim that the issue of homophobia was too broad to tackle, and drew a comparison with racist abuse.
Amaechi questioned why ”a referee [would know] what to do when someone calls someone a nigger but not a faggot?” He went on to call the suggestion that the idea that “incorporating” action on homophobic bullying with similar efforts to tackle racism, would be too difficult, as “nonsense”.
He also described sports as the “last bastion” of homophobia, that straight players were reluctant to allow gay players into an environment where they love each other, and where they “do stuff which is close to being gay”.