Megan Rapinoe says she believes so few male players have come out because the environment is not “safe.”
For women, especially in sports, it has always been safer and more accepted for them to come out of the closet without having any major backlash from it. In fact, you won’t see any major headlines about it, because it has become so normal and accepted. For men, however, there is still this stigma out there that will take a quite a bit of time before more and more decide they will come out be themselves.
Rapinoe was asked why she believes there are fewer openly gay male athletes playing professional sports, during an appearance this week on Sky Sports’ “The HangOUT” show.
“To everyone in the sporting culture … you have a responsibility to think about what you’re saying and ensure that you’re creating an environment … that is welcoming and open,” Rapinoe said.
“Why aren’t there any out male athletes in the elite sport? Well, it’s not safe. They don’t feel safe. They either feel that they’re going to be abused from fans, they’re going to be kicked off teams, have slurs thrown at them, whatever it is,” Rapinoe added. “So it’s not safe, and until it is safe we won’t see any male players.”
“I think it’s safer on the women’s side, and I think we have a lot of camaraderie just between ourselves and a lot more people coming out, which makes it easier for everyone, but I would say from the sporting directors to the club owners to the fans, to all the players, it’s your responsibility also,” she continued.
The list of openly gay professional athletes in the male sports world pales in comparison to the number of openly gay female athletes.
Carl Nassib, a defensive lineman for the Las Vegas Raiders, came out publicly as gay last June, but that is about it.
Rapinoe has taken her brunt of criticism, but mostly because she was one of the first footballers to kneel before matches, which was right after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick had just begun doing it in 2016.
The OL Reign midfielder said that, as an LGBTQ+ person, she understood the important of allyship and wanted to use her platform to lend her support to the anti-racism movement.
“There was a lot of fallout from it,” Rapinoe added. “But even in the four short years after Colin was kneeling for the first time, look how far we’ve come — everyone who had something to say to Colin and the people who supported him have been proven wrong.
“A lot of people are on board now, and that’s not to say that they were wrong and I was right — it’s not about that — it’s just that sometimes history catches up quickly.
In 2020, Rapinoe lauded Kaepernick during the ESPY Awards and said his 2016 protests left a lasting legacy.