International study reports widespread anti-gay discrimination in sports

Former Dallas Cowboys practice squad player defensive end Michael Sam (46) runs a drill during team practice Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Irving, Texas.

Former Dallas Cowboys practice squad player defensive end Michael Sam (46) runs a drill during team practice Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Irving, Texas. LM Otero, AP

Former Dallas Cowboys practice squad player defensive end Michael Sam (46) runs a drill during team practice Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Irving, Texas.LM Otero, AP

Former Dallas Cowboys practice squad player defensive end Michael Sam (46) runs a drill during team practice Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Irving, Texas.

SYDNEY — One in four gay men said they had received verbal threats of harm or had been bullied while participating in sports, and around 80 percent of people said they had witnessed such discrimination, according to a survey of 9,500 respondents.

The findings were contained in “Out on the Fields,” released Sunday, which officials said was the first international study and the largest conducted on discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual participants in sports.

The study, which also canvassed heterosexual respondents, surveyed nearly 3,000 people in Australia, 2,025 in the United States and 1,780 in Britain. The study was also conducted in Canada, New Zealand and Ireland.

It was initiated by organizers of the Bingham Cup, a gay rugby tournament held in Sydney last year.

The results from the on-line study were reviewed by seven academics from six universities, including Victoria University in Australia, Penn State University and the University of Massachusetts in the United States, Brunel University in Britain and the University of Winnipeg and Laval University in Canada.

The study also showed one in four gay men did not play youth team sports because of negative experiences in school physical education classes, or because they feared they would be rejected because of their sexuality.

It said 46 percent of all participants and 54 percent of gay men believe LGB people are “not accepted at all” or only “accepted a little” in sporting culture.

And 84 percent of gay men and 82 percent of lesbians in the study said they had received verbal slurs.

The study was open to anyone, although heterosexual participants were given fewer questions than lesbian, gay and bisexual participants. About 2,500 of the respondents were heterosexual.

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In the United States, 55 percent of the 2,025 respondents were gay men. The U.S. ranked highest for discrimination in some areas, with 54 percent of participants there saying lesbian, gay and bisexual people in sports were accepted only slightly or not at all.

Openly gay former Wales rugby star Gareth Thomas said “this massive international study has cast a very bright and much-needed light” on the issue.

Former Australia rugby captain John Eales said that “as a father I was really disappointed to hear how widespread homophobia is in some parts of sport, especially the PE classes and spectator stands where so many kids learn how to behave.”

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