Openly gay Brazilian Olympic diver Ian Matos died aged 32 following a severe infection that left him hospitalised.
Matos had been in hospital for two months before his condition worsened on Wednesday (22 December), the Sun reported. He had initially sought treatment because of an infection in his throat which later spread to his stomach and lungs.
He had won three bronze medals in the 2010 South American Games. He placed eighth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro where he competed in the men’s synchronised three-metre springboard alongside his diving partner Luiz Outerelo.
Brazil’s Olympic Committee said in a statement that it is “profoundly saddened” to have received the “news of the premature death” of Matos.
The statement continued: “Team Brazil acknowledges his contribution to the evolution of the discipline.
“Our sincere condolences to his family and friends.”
“From a young age, I knew I was gay, but it was here that I got to live my sexuality,” Matos said at the time, referring to his home in Rio.
According to OutSports, Matos said a friend advised him to stay in the closet until after the 2016 Olympic games. But he said the pressure of hiding boyfriends, avoiding queer parties and not being able to live his truth was ultimately too much for the young diver.
At the time, Ian Matos had been part of a small number of out LGBT+ Olympic athletes. A then record-breaking 56 openly-LGBT+ athletes competed in the 2016 Rio games, OutSports reported.
In last summer’s Tokyo Summer Olympics, there were at least 186 out athletes, more than triple the number who participated in the Rio Olympics.
A swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania is the latest target in the culture-war debate over whether transgender girls and women should be allowed to participate on female sports teams.
Lia Thomas, who came out as trans in 2019, set three school records and two national records at a meet this month.
Since then, Thomas has faced criticism and verbal attacks from anti-trans groups, conservative media and, reportedly, even two teammates.
Some of the headlines about Thomas’ wins said she “smashed” the records and continued her “dominant” season alongside pre-transition photos of her and using her previous name and male pronouns — practices known as deadnaming and misgendering.
Transgender advocates have condemned that coverage and some of the conversation about Thomas as transphobic. They said it mischaracterizes her victories to make it appear that transgender women are cheating just by being trans and implies that one trans woman winning means trans women generally are dominating women’s sports. They note that Thomas is competing within guidance issued by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Thomas’ critics have varying views. Some have used explicitly anti-transgender language and argue that trans women should be completely banned from women’s sports, while others argue that the NCAA’s policy regarding trans athletes’ participation isn’t strict enough.
Thomas declined an interview with NBC News and has done only one recent interview, with the podcast SwimSwam. In that interview, she said she and her coaches expected that there would be “some measure of pushback” in response to her competing, but not “quite to the extent that it has blown up.”
“I just don’t engage with it,” she said, regarding the criticism. “It’s not healthy for me to read it and engage with it at all, and so I don’t, and that’s all I’ll say on that.”
Swimming as her ‘authentic self’
Thomas swam on the men’s team for her first three years at Penn, and for part of that time, she said she was transitioning. She started her medical transition in May 2019 and began gender-affirming hormones, also known as hormone replacement therapy, which for her included testosterone blockers and estrogen. She said she decided to swim out the 2018-19 season on the men’s team without coming out, which “caused a lot of distress for me,” she told SwimSwam.
“I was struggling,” she said. “My mental health was not very good. There was a lot of unease about basically just feeling trapped in my body, like it didn’t align.”
She came out to her coaches and teammates in the fall of 2019, and swam the rest of her junior year, the 2019-20 season, on the men’s team as well — a time she described as “an uncomfortable experience.”
By the summer of 2020, she had been on testosterone suppressants for a full year, meeting a guideline set by the NCAA in 2011. Its handbook for transgender athletes states: “A trans female treated with testosterone suppression medication may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one year of testosterone suppression treatment.” She said she submitted medical information that included blood tests of her hormone levels. The NCAA approved her request and cleared her to compete on the women’s team that fall.
But then Covid-19 led to nationwide lockdowns, and the Ivy League canceled its swimming season. Thomas said she decided to take the year off to save her eligibility, “given how important it is to me to be able to compete and swim as my authentic self.”
She began competing on the women’s team in November, at the start of the 2021-22 season, and said she has been on hormone therapy for just over two and a half years.
Thomas has performed well at nearly every meet so far this season, but the media firestorm began after her performance at the Zippy Invitational at the University of Akron in Ohio, where she won three events and set three program, meet and pool records, along with two national records. In the 1,650-yard freestyle in particular, she was 38 seconds ahead of teammate Anna Kalandadze, who finished second. Right-wing media outlets have shared video of Thomas winning the race on social media.
Since then, she’s received international media attention, and two of her teammates, speaking anonymously, reportedly told the sports website OutKick that they disagree with her participation, viewing it as unfair. NBC News has been unable to verify these reports. University of Pennsylvania Athletics and several members of the women’s swim team have not responded to requests for comment.
Some critics have argued that Thomas’ performance is evidence that she has inherent physical advantages from going through male puberty and having higher testosterone levels. As a result, they argue that the NCAA should bar trans women from female sports teams or change its policy, saying that requiring one year of testosterone suppressants for trans women isn’t enough.
“While the NCAA’s rules demand the use of testosterone suppressants for a specific duration, the current requirements are not rigid enough and do not produce an authentic competitive atmosphere,” John Lohn, editor-in-chief of Swimming World magazine, wrote in an op-ed. “It is obvious that one year is not a sufficient timeframe to offer up a level playing field. Athletes transitioning from male to female possess the inherent advantage of years of testosterone production and muscle-building.”
Some researchers and advocates disagree, including at least one researcher who supports what is widely considered a more middle-of-the-road approach.
Joanna Harper, visiting fellow for transgender athletic performance at England’s Loughborough University, published the first performance analysis of transgender athletes in 2015. Harper, a trans runner who has master’s degrees in physics and medical physics, evaluated the race times of eight trans women distance runners after they transitioned and found that they were no more competitive in the female division than they had been in the male division.
She noted that it was a small study and that it doesn’t apply to any sport other than distance running, but that it was and still is the only published data on transgender athletes. She is currently conducting three studies of how hormone therapy affects transgender athletes, though she said she is still gathering data, which could take years.
In addition to her research, one oft-cited study published last year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that transgender women in the Air Force performed better on fitness tests after one year of hormone therapy when compared to cisgender women. After two years, their performance was “fairly equivalent” to cisgender women, the study’s author, Dr. Timothy Roberts, told NBC News this year.
Harper said she’s been following the news about Thomas closely and believes it’s true that trans women will maintain some advantages even after hormone therapy. But she said Thomas — who is swimming slower now than she did pre-transition — is just one person, and she doesn’t represent all trans athletes.
“I have seen trans athletes who undergo transition — and either because they don’t adapt well to the change in their testosterone levels, or they had trouble with the medication, or perhaps their life focus changes somewhat — who are not nearly as successful after transition as they were before,” Harper said. “And we’re never going to hear in the media of those trans women who are less successful after transition than they were before because they’re not successful.”
She said she believes that the NCAA’s guideline of requiring one year of hormone therapy is “perfectly reasonable,” and that it “will result in meaningful competition between trans women and cis women,” or women who are not trans.
She added that the NCAA’s rule has been in place for 10 years, and that trans women “aren’t taking over NCAA sports and are still underrepresented.” She noted that there are more than 200,000 women who compete in the NCAA every year, and that trans people make up about 1 percent of the population. If they were proportionally represented in the NCAA, there should be about 2,000 trans women competing, but she estimates there are less than 100 each year.
“We’ve never seen a transgender NCAA champion, and Lia is not likely to do it either,” Harper said. “But even if she did win an NCAA championship, we should see a few trans women each and every year winning NCAA Division 1 championships. So at some point it has to happen, and this idea that it’s some horrible miscarriage of justice that Lia is successful just doesn’t add up.”
Is the NCAA policy working?
The NCAA’s policy regarding trans women athletes is considered among the strictest of sports governing bodies, especially after the International Olympic Committee nixed testosterone testing and limits for trans women athletes in a new set of guidance released in November.
Anne Lieberman, director of policy for Athlete Ally, a group that advocates for LGBTQ-inclusive sports policies, said that part of the conversation about Thomas has been focused on whether the NCAA policy is “working.”
“What do we mean by ‘working’? So for many people, working means that it will prevent trans athletes from either succeeding or even participating in college athletics — and I think that that’s an important distinction,” said Lieberman, who uses gender-neutral pronouns. “Trans athletes — Lia, in particular — deserve love, support, care, access to be able to swim. And Lia, like any other athlete, should be able to win and lose.”
Lieberman said they don’t think the conversation about Thomas is just about sports, because, they noted, there hasn’t been an issue with the NCAA policy in the last 10 years. Rather, they said the conversation about Thomas and trans athletes generally is part of the “fuel for the political fire that is absolutely ravaging trans rights in this country.”
Ten states — nine this year — have passed laws that ban trans girls and women from playing on female sports teams. More than 20 additional states considered similar bills. Over two dozen states also weighed legislation that would ban trans minors from accessing gender-affirming medical care such as hormones and puberty blockers. Governors in two states — Arkansas and Tennessee — signed such legislation into law, though a judge blocked Arkansas’ law from taking effect in July.
“While people might think more broadly that this is just about sports, this is really about the broader conversation about the humanity of trans folks and whether or not we deserve to participate in all aspects of life in society, and that includes college sports,” they said.
Gillian Branstetter, press secretary for the National Women’s Law Center, added that there are real needs that female athletes have, including equity in funding, safety from harassment, mental health support and making sure they have equitable facilities.
“I don’t know that if you were to poll female athletes the participation of people like Lia Thomas would come up very much,” she said. “There are much bigger issues at hand for female athletes, and people who think that they’re saving women’s sports by putting forward their transphobia have never expressed a single piece of interest in saving women’s sports before.”
In participation with the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats fundraiser, Nassib created the rainbow cleats this season to spotlight the LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization the Trevor Project.
As part of the campaign, players can custom design their own cleats to raise awareness for the nonprofit organizations of their choice. Players then auction off the cleats to raise money for the groups. https://iframe.nbcnews.com/mQeU0Lh?_showcaption=true&app=1
Cyd Zeigler, LGBTQ advocate and co-founder of the LGBTQ sports site Outsports.com, celebrated Nassib’s support, conceding that visible support for the LGBTQ community is a rarity among NFL players.
“I have been, for a couple of years, pointing to the fact that no NFL players ever choose LGBTQ causes and it’s a real source of disappointment,” Zeigler said of the cleats campaign, which began in 2016. “People talk about the importance of allies and I say all the time, that we can’t wait for allies to show up, that LGBTQ people have to push for our own visibility and our own equality.”
Before this year, Miami Dolphins receiver Preston Williams was the only NFL player out of hundreds to highlight LGBTQ causes. Williams dedicated his cleats in 2019 to the Miami-based LGBTQ advocacy group Pridelines.
Nassib’s cleats featured the Trevor Project’s name printed in bright orange and the number to its suicide prevention lifeline: 1-866-488-7386. He previously donated $100,000 to the group when came out earlier this year.https:
But Nassib was not the only player to support LGBTQ causes this year. Cleveland Browns fullback and LGBTQ ally Johnny Stanton, whose uncle is gay, created rainbow cleats in support of Athlete Ally, which promotes LGBTQ inclusion in sports.
“No one should feel unwelcome on the field or the court. If just one person being an ally can help them feel more comfortable, then I’m happy to be that person,” Stanton said in a statement the NFL shared on Twitter last week.
There are many reasons to boycott China, not least of which is its treatment of the Uyghurs; an unofficial U.K. tribunal this week said Chinese President Xi Jinping is responsible for “genocide, crimes against humanity and torture” of minorities in Xinjiang.
Add to the list the mysterious and alarming case of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who disappeared for two weeks after publicly accusing Zhang Gaoli, a member of China’s ruling committee, of sexual assault. Within 20 minutes of her post on China’s equivalent of Twitter, government censors scrambled to scrub any mention of it from the Internet, as the New York Times reported Friday. China’s efforts to deny anything was amiss by posting photos and videos of Peng were clumsy and ineffective and quickly ridiculed by the twitterverse.
Earlier this month, the Women’s Tennis Association took the brave step of suspending all tournaments in China in protest of her obvious detention and censoring.
“While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation,” Steve Simon, chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association, said in a statement as reported by the New York Times. “If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded — equality for women — would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”
So far, the WTA is the only major sports organization to announce a boycott of China, but the organizers of Gay Games 11, scheduled for 2023 in Hong Kong, should be next.
Gay Games organizers excitedly announced a new logo for the 2023 Games two weeks ago, adding the colors of the Progress Pride flag to recognize communities of color. But so far those same organizers are silent on the plight of Peng, a woman of color herself, and a fellow athlete who was targeted by China for making an accusation of assault.
When asked by the Blade if the Federation of Gay Games would consider a boycott of China, it issued a cowardly statement that ignored the central question of Peng’s plight and well being.
“The Federation of Gay Games continues to monitor the situation in Hong Kong regarding COVID-19, the National Security Law and all other aspects that affect the safety and security of our event,” Sean Fitzgerald, co-president of the Federation of Gay Games, told the Blade in a statement. “We are committed to hosting Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong in November 2023.”
The Federation of Gay Games’s claims of supporting people of color and athletes of color ring hollow when its leaders won’t even mention Peng’s name in response to a direct question about her plight.
The Federation should reconsider its posture, denounce China’s treatment and censorship of Peng, and move Gay Games 11 to another locale in protest.
Boycotts are divisive tactics and one Hong Kong LGBTQ activist this week told the Blade she doesn’t support the idea. “In Hong Kong, the team behind Gay Games has really worked tirelessly to bring it to Hong Kong and it will be a very good opportunity to showcase diversity and people working together and the human spirit at its best,” Gigi Chao told the Blade.
But what does it say about the queer community if we fail to take a stand even after the WTA has acted so boldly and decisively in its own boycott? The Biden administration on Monday announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics that are slated to take place in Beijing in February. A Gay Games boycott would be consistent with our own government’s efforts to hold China accountable for Peng, the Uyghurs, and other human rights abuses.
The Federation of Gay Games has an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the WTA and Peng and send a powerful message that the LGBTQ community will not reward a regime that engages in overt censorship while covering up allegations of sexual assault by sending hundreds of athletes and millions of dollars to Hong Kong in 2023.
As Qatar prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the government has assured prospective visitors it will welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) tourists and that fans will be free to fly the rainbow flag at the games. But for LGBT Qataris like Mohammed, openly expressing his sexuality as a gay man is not an option. Doing so, he fears, would land him backin jail.
Mohammed was arrested in 2014 for alleged same-sex conduct, punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment under article 285 of Qatar’s penal code. While in detention, officers searched his phone, identified a man he’d been messaging, and attempted to contact this person to target him as well. Mohammed was detained for weeks, enduring verbal abuse and sexual harassment by police. Officers even shaved his head.
Seven years later, Mohammed has resigned himself to a life of discretion: he dresses in a masculine style, refrains from posting about his sexuality online, and no longer meets men from dating apps.
“There is zero freedom [to post anything related to sexuality online],” Mohammed said.
As Qatar advances its surveillance capabilities, including inside football stadiums, the possibility of LGBT Qataris being persecuted for publicly supporting LGBT rights will remain long after the international fans have gone.
Physical and virtual spaces free from surveillance are vanishing in Qatar as data protection law allows broad exemptions that undermine the right to privacy. When digital surveillance is combined with laws that target individuals based on consensual sexual conduct outside of marriage, there is nowhere left to hide.
The Qatari government should repeal article 285 and all other laws that criminalize consensual sexual relations outside of marriage and leave people like Mohammed living in fear in the shadows. Freedom of expression and nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be guaranteed for all Qataris, not just spectators and tourists flocking to Qatar for the World Cup.
Bullingham visited Qatar to better understand the issue, he said at a press conference Monday (22 November), and claimed to have “been given those assurances that people from the LGBT+ communities will be allowed to go to Qatar and support the [England] team”.
The 2022 World Cup, Bullingham hopes, will be a catalyst for change in Qatar.
“We have asked the question as to whether all of our fans will be able to come, particularly those from LGBTQ community,” he said, “and we received the unequivocal answer that absolutely everybody is welcome to come to Qatar.”
Football boss feels Qatar has made ‘strong progress’ ahead of World Cup
In June, UEFA organised a working group to examine Qatar’s human rights track record.
European football’s top governing body met with various bodies, including the International Labour Organisation, the National Human Rights Committee, the Qatar Football Association, before visiting the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium.
Bullingham was a member of the group, meeting with migrant workers and charities to capture what is happening on the ground.
“We believe the legislation the Qataris have brought in over the last few years has been strong progress from a fair low base,” he said.
Following the success of its first friendship series against Boston Pride Hockey, an LGBTQ hockey team that was founded in 1989, Team Trans began to draw the interest of other trans and nonbinary hockey players from around the world. And while the Covid-19 pandemic foiled earlier plans for a reunion, players and organizers alike were keen to bring the event to the Madison area, where there is already an abundance of LGBTQ hockey players. In a spirited two-day tournament, Team Trans, which was split into three teams based on skill level, went undefeated in six games against the Madison team.
When the inaugural Team Trans first stepped off the ice and into the locker room two years ago, the players said they could tell that something was different. While many of them had played in LGBTQ leagues, they were often the only trans player on their team and struggled to find a community of trans athletes to talk to. But for one weekend, these players were all able to bond over a shared love for the sport and a mutual understanding of their personal struggles with gender identity.
“I keep meeting people that I’ve barely spoken to or haven’t spoken to directly, and I feel like I already know them in a way, just because of the shared experiences that we’ve had in hockey spaces,” Mason LeFebvre, a Team Trans goaltender and out trans man, told NBC News. “It’s just casual and comfortable from the start. We’re not going to ask each other a bunch of awkward questions that other people might ask if they know we’re trans. Then, we talk about other things that would be completely off the table for conversations with mostly cis[gender] people.”
Avery Cordingley, who plays center and uses gender-neutral pronouns, shared a similar sentiment.
“It’s feeling like you don’t have to get over a bunch of awkward hurdles before you can just exist together in a space,” they said. “Last night, I picked up a player at the airport at 11 o’clock, and we’re instantly chatting. We both have the experience of, like, ‘Are we going to be able to keep playing hockey if we choose to transition?’ And we didn’t even have to go into that. We’re just like, ‘Yeah, I’ve played hockey here and here and here.’”
For LeFebvre and Cordingley, who both played girls’ hockey growing up before beginning their transition and now compete as teammates on Team Trans, there was always an inherent need to consistently prove themselves in a male-dominated sport.
“But there’s an extra layer to it when you’re also trans, especially if you know it at that age,” LeFebvre said. “It’s extra uncomfortable because you belong in the boys’ locker room, but they don’t see that.”
Cordingley said it’s even more uncomfortable if you “don’t have the language” to articulate what you’re going through.
“Because you don’t know why you’re hurt, you don’t know why it hurts that you’re not allowed in there,” they explained. “For me, it’s like you get off the ice, and your teammates go one way, and you’re just alone in a room by yourself the other way. It’s alienating, it’s othering, it makes you feel like you don’t belong there, even if you love the sport and just want to play.”
According to the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit think tank, 10 states have recently passed laws to ban transgender youth from participating in school sports that align with their gender identity, with proponents claiming that this legislation is designed to keep all athletes on a level playing field. Having weighed the consequences that transitioning would have on their own futures in hockey, LeFebvre and Cordingley both said that getting to know a trans or nonbinary athlete is the first step to understanding the harm that these policies have caused.
“We should look at them as a human being with the same wants and needs as their own kids and their own friends,” Cordingley said. “It doesn’t matter what your gender identity is. Everyone wants that team, everyone wants to feel like they belong, everyone wants to play the game that brings them joy. We’re not blowing the competition away; we’re very average. They should just understand that trans athletes are regular athletes, and trans athletes can be very good at their sports, but so can cisgender athletes.”
LeFebvre said proponents of trans sports bans “just need to watch trans athletes complete and realize they are just athletes who happen to be trans.”
“It really doesn’t have anything to do with being trans — it has to do with dedication. Some of it is natural talent, but a lot of it is hard work and dedication, just like it is for anyone else,” he said.
Last month, the Premier Hockey Federation, formerly known as the National Women’s Hockey League, released a new inclusion policythat was developed in consultation with Athlete Ally, a nonprofit LGBTQ athletic advocacy group, and Chris Mosier, a transgender triathlete. The policy itself provides a pathway for the participation of both trans and nonbinary athletes in the federation.
While they both think that the federation has taken a step in the right direction, LeFebvre and Cordingley agreed that, until it is put into practice and updated with less ambiguous language, it will be hard to gauge the policy’s effectiveness.
“You could get a hormone exemption, so that someone like me or Avery theoretically could play in the league, but what does the exemption require?” LeFebvre said. “Maybe it’s completely reasonable stuff, maybe it’s not. We don’t know, because it’s not specific, and it might just be partially because you can’t be super specific on an individual basis. But also, if they just use the vagueness of it to not write any exemptions ever, then that’s not great, obviously.”
But for now, LeFebvre and Cordingley have turned their attention to the future of Team Trans, which has attracted hockey players from all over the United States, Canada and Japan. As a team, they hope to host a friendship series every year and travel to some LGBTQ tournaments, showing transgender athletes of all ages — but especially younger generations — that their dreams are not only valid but possible.
“We’re not going anywhere, and we just love the game like everyone else,” Cordingley said. “We all have a place in the game, and the game is stronger” because of our differences.
British Olympic diver Tom Daley said that he will make it his “mission” to stop countries where homosexuality is punishable by death from competing in the Olympics.
“I think it’s really important to try and create change, rather than just highlighting or shining a light on those things,” Daley, who is gay, said Wednesday while accepting the Sport Award at the 2021 Attitude Awards. “So I want to make it my mission over the next, well, hopefully before the Paris Olympics in 2024, to make it so that the countries [where it’s] punishable by death for LGBT people are not allowed to compete at the Olympic Games.”https://iframe.nbcnews.com/zgXuflE
There are 11 countries where homosexuality is punishable by death — including Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran — and approximately 60 other nations where same-sex relations are criminalized in some capacity, according to Human Dignity Trust, a global advocacy group for LGBTQ rights. Many, if not all, of these countries competed at the Tokyo Olympics.
Daley also criticized the organizers of the FIFA World Cup for hosting the 2022 competition in Qatar, where the death penalty is a legal possibility, according to Human Dignity Trust.
“I think it should not be allowed for a sporting event to host in a country that criminalizes against basic human rights,” Daley said. “So, that is going to be my mission now to change that.”
International sporting organizations have previously banned countries from competing on grounds of discriminatory policies. From 1964 to 1988, the International Olympic Committee, the governing body of the Olympics, banned South Africa from competing because of apartheid, a brutal system of racial discrimination against nonwhite citizens.
The Olympic Committee has also taken measures to prevent anti-LGBTQ cities from hosting competitions since the 2014 Sochi Winter Games were criticized for Russia’s “gay propaganda law.” Tokyo passed anti-LGBTQ discrimination laws in 2018 in accordance with the committee’s policy for hosting cities, but efforts to implement similar policies throughout all of Japan have stalled.
“We fully respect Tom Daley and his view,” the Olympic Committee said to NBC News in an email.
“At the same time, the IOC has neither the mandate nor the capability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country,” it said. “This must rightfully remain the legitimate role of governments and respective intergovernmental organizations.”
Daley noted Wednesday that the Tokyo Games had a historic number of openly LGBTQ athletes compete. At least 186 openly LGBTQ athletes took part, according to Outsports, nearly triple the 56 who participated in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
After winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Games, his first out of his four Olympic competitions, Daley took to the podium and dedicated his win to LGBTQ people.
“I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone,” he said, crying tears of joy. “That you can achieve anything and that there is a whole lot of your chosen family out here, ready to support you.”
The 2022 Winter Games will be held in Beijing, where LGBTQ people are not protected by anti-discrimination laws.
A-League midfielder Josh Cavallo says he knows there are other players “living in silence” after becoming the only known current male top-flight professional footballer in the world to come out as gay.
Cavallo on Wednesday became a rarity in men’s professional sport, announcing on social media he was “ready to speak about something personal that I’m finally comfortable to talk about in my life”.
The Twitter post and emotive personal video, shared by his club Adelaide United, has since made international headlines and elicited support from all corners of the game.
The 21-year-old said growing up he “always felt the need to hide myself because I was ashamed.” “Ashamed I would never be able to do what I loved and be gay,” he wrote.
“Being a closeted gay footballer, I’ve had to learn to mask my feelings in order to fit the mould of a professional footballer. “Growing up being gay and playing football were just two worlds that hadn’t crossed paths before. “I’ve lived my life assuming that this was a topic never to be spoken about.”
Adelaide United coach Carl Veart said Cavallo, who has played 19 games for the Reds after playing nine matches for Western United, has “shown incredible courage to be one of very few professional sportsmen to be this brave.”
An Adelaide United statement said: “Today, Josh Cavallo speaks his truth to the world and demonstrates profound courage. Adelaide United, not only as a football club, but as the embodiment of an inclusive community, supports a remarkable and brave person.
“We stand alongside Josh for proudly being true to himself and will continue to love and support him as a member of our beautifully diverse family.”
Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said: “Football Australia wishes to commend Josh’s bravery to come out as the only openly gay player in the A-League Men competition. His courage to be open with himself and share that part with others is inspiring and will hopefully inspire more footballers to do the same in the future.”
Two boys were arrested on suspicion of making homophobic comments during the Manchester City v Burnley football game on Saturday (16 October).
As well as the two teenagers, a third man in his 20s was apprehended by police at Etihad Stadium during the Premier League match. Greater Manchester Police said this arrest was a ‘separate incident’, on suspicion of a breach of the peace and police assault.
No further details were given about the precise ages of each boy or which team they support.
All three were held in custody for questioning over Saturday night and could now face possible football banning orders as well as criminal charges.
Match commander for the event, chief inspector Jamie Collins, emphasised that “the majority of fans attending [last Saturday’s] match behaved in an exemplary manner,” adding that he “thanked” those people.
He continued: “We work closely with Manchester City Football Club to promote good behaviour at matches and to identify anyone who commits a criminal offence.
“GMP officers will take positive action against those using homophobic or racist language and that is what my officers have done at today’s fixture.”
He emphasised that the “strongest action” will be taken towards anyone who engages in this kind of abusive or discriminatory behaviour at games, “including banning those fans from attending future football matches”.
“Our top priority is the safety and well-being of the fans, staff and players,” Collins continued. “We want fans to be able to enjoy matches without the experience being ruined by a small number of people.”
City won the game 2-0, with goals from Bernado Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
Homophobic and racist abuse is a recurring issue within football, with London’s Met Police forced to increase their numbers at Wembley City last Tuesday (12 October) due to concerns over possible racist abuse during the England v Hungary game.
More recently a gay Premier League footballer revealed he is in therapy over crippling fears that football fans on opposing teams will “crucify” him for being gay should he come out.