Monday, July 11, 2011

The Cowardice of FIFA

With the Women's World Cup upon us, lots of great articles have been popping up to illustrate the (mostly) unchecked homophobia in professional sports that some coaches, commissioners and governing bodies perpetuate or pretend doesn't exist.

A friend pointed me to this Daily Beast story about how FIFA almost stepped up to the plate to publicly condemn homophobia. FIFA's statements about a variety of homophobic incidents have been pathetic, always equivocating and never standing strong behind its LGBT athletes, coaches or fans. Wouldn't it be nice if the international governing body of soccer lived up to its website's stated mission:
"The world is a place rich in natural beauty and cultural diversity, but also one where many are still deprived of their basic rights. FIFA now has an even greater responsibility to reach out and touch the world, using football as a symbol of hope and integration."
Now wouldn't you think an organization that values "diversity" and "integration" should express that  there are extremely talented lesbian and gay athletes who should be celebrated for their skill on the soccer field, not belittled, kicked off the team or killed because of their sexual orientation? (Let us not forget the horrible murder of Eudy Simelane, a South African soccer player who came out and was gang raped and killed in 2008.)

But alas, FIFA chose to renege on their plan to publicly come out against homophobia. What will it take for FIFA to come out of the dark ages?

Keph Senett from the site "In Bed with Maradona" has a great analysis here of FIFA's cowardly behavior and she also celebrates some out professional soccer players like Ursula Holl and Nadine Angerer of the German national team (pictured below, left and middle).
Another friend pointed me to Pat Griffin's LGBT Sports Blog which is a great collection of her personal analyses of LGBT-related sports issues and links to other great articles (it's how I found the Senett article above). I just started following her and am interested to keep reading: Pat is a long-time educator and social justice advocate, who does "what I can to make sure that younger generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes and coaches can live openly, be recognized for their talents and respected for their character instead of hated, misunderstood or feared for their sexual orientation or gender identity."

Pat, have you considered running for FIFA president? In contrast to FIFA's, your stated mission truly embraces diversity and integration within sports. You certainly have my vote.

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