David Kopay and Ian Roberts live on different sides of the Pacific Ocean. Both took giant leaps of faith when they came out. (Representational Image)(Unsplash)
David Kopay and Ian Roberts live on different sides of the Pacific Ocean. Both took giant leaps of faith when they came out. (Representational Image)(Unsplash)

Years after coming out, gay athletes upset by lack of change

Some 45 years after Kopay’s open disclosure, and 25 after Roberts’, both men are united in their disappointment that a higher proportion of gay athletes haven’t come out, and that homophobic language on the sporting fields is still rife.
By Associated Press | Posted by Jahnavi Gupta | Brisbane, Australia
UPDATED ON DEC 02, 2020 03:50 PM IST

David Kopay and Ian Roberts live on different sides of the Pacific Ocean. Both took giant leaps of faith when they came out.

And at a time when it had never been done in their sports.

Kopay is a 78-year-old former National Football League running back living in Palm Springs, California and known as the first professional athlete to reveal he was gay. He came out in 1975 after his NFL career ended.

In 1995, Roberts became the first high-profile Australian sports person and first professional rugby player in the world to come out as gay.

Some 45 years after Kopay’s open disclosure, and 25 after Roberts’, both men are united in their disappointment that a higher proportion of gay athletes haven’t come out, and that homophobic language on the sporting fields is still rife.

“It’s ignorance more than anything else, they try to hide their own insecurities by putting down other people,” Kopay told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, speaking of homophobic slurs. The call interrupted his rearranging in a new apartment of photos and other memorabilia from an eight-year NFL career that spanned five teams beginning with the San Francisco 49ers in 1964.

“It’s horrible to hear that kids are being targeted. I’ve sacrificed so much to try and change this problem,” Kopay added. “I know most people don’t mean anything when they use these horrible words, but . . . you have no idea what people are thinking.”

Roberts, who has forged an acting career since retiring, played for two more rugby league seasons after coming out. A powerful front-row forward who played for the national team, Roberts wishes he had done it sooner.

“It was the worst-kept secret. Everyone knew I was gay. I wish I had come out from Day One,” the 55-year-old Roberts told the AP in a telephone interview from a movie set near Sydney where he’s working in the third season of the “Mr. Inbetween” series. “Personally, it was kind of empowering when you come out, there were some wonderful stories as well, people came to me and said how happy they were with me.”

Kopay’s comments about homophobic language and Roberts’ about coming out as gay are at the forefront of two studies published Wednesday by Melbourne’s Monash University.

The first analyzed survey responses from 1,173 lesbian, gay, and bisexual people aged 15 to 21 and living in the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Ireland. Authors described it as the first study to investigate whether LGB youth who “come out” to teammates are more likely to be a target of homophobic behaviour than those who do not.

“Some gay athletes who have come out as adults have said fears that LGB young people will be the target of homophobic behaviors if they come out to their teammates are unfounded,” said lead author Erik Denison from Monash’s Behavioural Sciences Research Laboratory. “We hoped this was true given young people generally have positive attitudes toward gay people.

“Being the target of homophobic behavior is harmful to the health of LGB young people and increases their risk of depression, suicide, and self-harm.”

The study also showed that young people who came out were significantly more likely to report they’d been the target of homophobic behaviours in sport settings.

The second Monash study investigated why some athletes use homophobic language.

“Sports organizations, LGBTQ advocacy groups, and government officials typically assume homophobic behavior is driven by homophobic attitudes in sports,” Denison said. “Over the last two decades, dozens of educational resources, advertising campaigns, and initiatives such as Pride Games have been developed to end homophobia in sports. These approaches do not seem to be working because studies consistently find homophobic language continues to be frequently used by male athletes.”

A sports inclusion website updated to coincide with the release of the two studies was created, it says, to “illustrate the lack of meaningful action on homophobia and transphobia in sport.”

It includes a timeline of other famous sports people who came out, including Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova in 1981, and English soccer player Justin Fashanu in 1990. Fashanu retired in 1997 and committed suicide in 1998 at the age of 37.

Roberts said he heard homophobic remarks on the field but he was heartened when, after he’d announced he was gay, the North Queensland Cowboys made him captain.

“The Cowboys, they were fantastic,” Roberts said of the Townsville-based National Rugby League club. “Yes, they had a gay captain. Yes, there were naysayers, but they would have have been in a minority.”

Back across the Pacific Ocean and to Kopay in his new apartment, where the former NFL player says he “thought coming out would make it easier for other athletes to be open about their sexuality . . . I hoped to make a difference so others in my position would have the freedom to be who they are.

“But it was such a painful experience, it was horrible,” Kopay added in a separate interview with Monash University. “I sacrificed so much . . . I couldn’t get a job, couldn’t get a coaching position, no one wanted to hire me. It was like I committed murder.”

Roberts said reasons like those are behind many players not wanting to come out until they are finished their careers.

“That is a shame,” Roberts said. “I have heard along the gay grapevine, that still happens . . . waiting until they retire because of their fears.”

Still, Kopay remains bewildered why more gay athletes haven’t come out.

“I have often been asked if I thought that more gay athletes would come out in sport, and I have always said it was just a matter of time,” Kopay says. “I could never have imagined that nearly 50 years later we would still have no openly gay athletes in America’s Big 4 sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey). We also don’t have many around the world.

“We now have gay marriage but we don’t have any openly gay athletes in the NFL. It makes no sense.”

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

Follow more stories on Facebook and Twitter

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Representational Image(Unsplash)
Representational Image(Unsplash)

Here's why drink, drug risk lower among optimistic pupils with 'happy' childhood

ANI
UPDATED ON JAN 26, 2021 11:30 AM IST
The findings show a link between how pupils feel about the past, present, and future and their classroom behaviour.
Close
Men, take note! If you are a new father and insecure about the relationship with your partner, it may trigger postnatal depression, a new study suggested.(ANI)
Men, take note! If you are a new father and insecure about the relationship with your partner, it may trigger postnatal depression, a new study suggested.(ANI)

Depression in new fathers linked to relationship insecurities: Study

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:51 PM IST
Men, take note! If you are a new father and insecure about the relationship with your partner, it may trigger postnatal depression, a new study suggested.
Close
In a cross-cultural analysis, found several factors may have played a role in building the mutually beneficial relationship between humans and dogs, including temperature, hunting and surprisingly - gender.(ANI)
In a cross-cultural analysis, found several factors may have played a role in building the mutually beneficial relationship between humans and dogs, including temperature, hunting and surprisingly - gender.(ANI)

Study suggests women influenced coevolution of dogs, humans

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 25, 2021 05:11 PM IST
In a cross-cultural analysis, found several factors may have played a role in building the mutually beneficial relationship between humans and dogs, including temperature, hunting and surprisingly - gender.
Close
Neena Gupta asks an important question from her followers(Instagram/neena_gupta)
Neena Gupta asks an important question from her followers(Instagram/neena_gupta)

Neena Gupta asks fans if it's okay to need people in life, here's what they said

By Nishtha Grover, Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 25, 2021 03:43 PM IST
  • In a recent video, Neena Gupta asked her fans a rather intriguing question. The actor revealed that she is one of those who constantly need people in life and asked if it is better this way or to be absolutely independent.
Close
Gender-based violence "comes from a mindset, an idea that is so deeply ingrained that it is almost impossible to retrain", said Ran.(Pixabay)
Gender-based violence "comes from a mindset, an idea that is so deeply ingrained that it is almost impossible to retrain", said Ran.(Pixabay)

Men enlisted to fight 'tradition' of gender violence in Cambodia

Reuters, Phnom Penh
PUBLISHED ON JAN 25, 2021 11:41 AM IST
Ran is among 30 men coached by Gender and Development for Cambodia, a non-profit, to identify and root out violence against women by intervening in disputes, holding workshops and acting as a go-to for victims and authorities in communities.
Close
Representational Image(Unsplash)
Representational Image(Unsplash)

Peer confidants at school may help teens with anxiety, depression: Study

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 10:42 PM IST
Teen challenges including depression and anxiety are better understood by their peers as compared to teachers or counsellors in the school, believe three-quarters of parents in a new national poll.
Close
The much-in-love couple will be taking their nuptial vows on January 24 at The Mansion House, a beach resort, in Alibaug.(Instagram)
The much-in-love couple will be taking their nuptial vows on January 24 at The Mansion House, a beach resort, in Alibaug.(Instagram)

Here are some details about Varun Dhawan, Natasha Dalal's wedding festivities!

ANI, Mumbai (maharashtra) [india]
UPDATED ON JAN 23, 2021 03:59 PM IST
Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan is soon going to tie the knot with his longtime girlfriend and fashion designer Natasha Dalal. The preparations for the couple's wedding are in full swing.
Close
People who identify as non-binary - neither male nor female - can now select the gender-neutral title "Mx" on the White House website's contact page(Pixabay)
People who identify as non-binary - neither male nor female - can now select the gender-neutral title "Mx" on the White House website's contact page(Pixabay)

White House website adds gender-neutral pronouns as Biden meets LGBT+ demands

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 01:24 PM IST
People can now select gender-neutral pronouns when contacting the U.S. government, as President Joe Biden signed a raft of executive actions on his first day in office, including an order tackling discrimination against LGBT+ people.
Close
The move comes in the wake of child abuse accusations involving a prominent French political expert.(Pixabay)
The move comes in the wake of child abuse accusations involving a prominent French political expert.(Pixabay)

French victims of child abuse speak out in new #MeToo wave

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 11:25 AM IST
The French government pledged on Thursday to toughen laws on the rape of children after a massive online movement saw hundreds of victims share accounts about sexual abuse within their families.
Close
New York City has opened $25 billion worth of contracts to bids from LGBT+-owned businesses as part of a pledge to widen access to a raft of benefits already offered to other minorities, from women to Black entrepreneurs.(Yahoo)
New York City has opened $25 billion worth of contracts to bids from LGBT+-owned businesses as part of a pledge to widen access to a raft of benefits already offered to other minorities, from women to Black entrepreneurs.(Yahoo)

New York City opens billions in contracts to LGBT+ business

Reuters
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 04:07 PM IST
New York City has opened $25 billion worth of contracts to bids from LGBT+-owned businesses as part of a pledge to widen access to a raft of benefits already offered to other minorities, from women to Black entrepreneurs.
Close
After the separation from ex-husband Liam Hemsworth, the former 'Hannah Montana' actor has been open in interviews about her dating life and exploring her sexuality. (Instagram )
After the separation from ex-husband Liam Hemsworth, the former 'Hannah Montana' actor has been open in interviews about her dating life and exploring her sexuality. (Instagram )

Miley Cyrus gets candid about her sexuality

ANI, Washington [us]
PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 11:27 AM IST
American singer-songwriter Miley Cyrus got candid about her sexual orientation in an interview on Wednesday.
Close
Tilda Swinton(Instagram)
Tilda Swinton(Instagram)

Tilda Swinton reveals she identifies as queer

PTI
UPDATED ON JAN 20, 2021 08:10 PM IST
The 60-year-old actor, known for films such as "Orlando", "The Chronicles of Narnia" series, "Okja" and "Suspiria", said being queer is a "sensibility" for her.
Close
Representational Image(Unsplash)
Representational Image(Unsplash)

'Brain development shaped by what happens to us as well as our parents'

ANI
UPDATED ON JAN 20, 2021 02:55 PM IST
New research is showing that those effects can be passed down to subsequent generations, reporting that the infant children of mothers who had experienced childhood emotional neglect displayed altered brain circuitry involved in fear responses and anxiety.
Close
Vegans are better lovers? Here's what 'Baywatch' star Pamela Anderson has to say(Twitter/pamfoundation)
Vegans are better lovers? Here's what 'Baywatch' star Pamela Anderson has to say(Twitter/pamfoundation)

Vegans are better lovers? Here's what 'Baywatch' star Pamela Anderson has to say

ANI
UPDATED ON JAN 20, 2021 10:53 AM IST
'Baywatch' star Pamela Anderson has been on plant-based diet for about 30 years and here's what she thinks about vegans as lovers
Close
Kerala is the first State in India which declared a Transgender Policy after the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in 2014. (Unsplash)
Kerala is the first State in India which declared a Transgender Policy after the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in 2014. (Unsplash)

Kerala government to include 'Transgender' as gender option in application forms

PTI, Thiruvananthapuram
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 10:22 AM IST
In a landmark decision, the Left Front government in Kerala on Monday decided to include transgender as gender option in all application forms in its departments.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP