Sport has always been about gathering different people on the same place and enjoying the activity together. It was never about playing only with specific groups of people, or discriminating people. We often hear that in sport there was always place for everyone. However, we cannot say this is true, as there are many groups of people who are not as welcomed as others.
Sadly, the world is full of people having stereotypes and prejudices and people who refuse to accept the others the way they are. Many people do not want to accept that not everyone is the same and that there are people who do not live their lives as them. It happens in every field of our lives, and sport is not an exception. Even though sport is meant to bring people together, unfortunately it is not always the case.
For instance, there has always been a difference between men and women in sport. What is more, women are considered as less capable of doing sport in comparison to men. A proof of this is the difference in the number of sports clubs for men and women, in the gender pay gap, or even in the media coverage when it comes to sport events dedicated to women. Even in the 21st century it is still very hard for female athletes to get the respect and support they deserve for the achievements they have made throughout their career.
Another group of people that is widely unaccepted and judged is the LGBT group. This group of people is maybe one of the most affected ones in sport as homophobia, biphobia, transphobia are very present in this field. This is why many athletes fear to come out about their sexuality and tend to keep it a secret. They believe they will be rejected and not allowed to take part in sport due to the fact that they are “different”. Not only they are afraid of not being accepted and supported by their teammates but by their fans as well which only shows us how widespread the homophobia is in the field of sport. This is not only applied to the LGBT people who are already successful athletes, but also to the ones who are not professionals and do not even try to become one because they believe they would face homophobia, biphobia, transphobia or other barriers that would prevent them from becoming successful, which is not far from the truth. Many LGBT people have experienced bullying and harassment which even today is a huge problem. It is why many people belonging to this group are dealing with depression, are not able to live their life as they want to, some are not even able to show their full potential as athletes as a result of the fact that they lack motivation to perform the best they can, or do not feel the best in their own skin which results in them not being able to be show their capabilities and what they can actually achieve if only they were encouraged to be themselves.
Luckily a step forward has been made these past years as there are many athletes who decided that it is time for them to come up and face with the world. It was around the 80s when professional athletes started speaking up more loudly about their sexuality. At first it was not so well accepted, media coverage was not ready to share these stories with the public, so that is why there are not many stories about LGBT people in newspapers, which we may say is the case even today. For some, it is still a shock when a person comes out as part of this group in public.
Many of these athletes could not continue their career as they did not find acceptance and support by their peers, so they were usually traded or cut by their team. Some were even talked into participating in a sham marriage, as it was the case with Glenn Bruke, who is known for his effort to change the sport culture. Unfortunately, at the time, there was basically no room for an improvement or a change in the sport culture. But with time a small progress has been made. Maybe the biggest progress was made since 2013 when Jason Collins, who was a NBA center, came out in the public as gay, which made him the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport.
He received enormous support by his team, his colleagues and his fan, which probably made a path for other athletes to finally start speaking more freely about who they are. These stories aim to encourage others and give them hope that there is still a place for a change and that only by lifting each other up a difference can be made for the future generations. However, today there are many more professional athletes who are part of the LGBT group, but who are still afraid to talk about it. Living in fear of losing your career, or not being accepted as you are, is not something anyone should experience. Knowing this, we should be aware that even though a progress has been made so far, there is still a long way to go in order to provide a positive environment for this group of people in sport. This is why it is very important to raise awareness about these issues, talk more openly about them, share more positive stories on social media and try to be encouraging and accepting to the others.
One positive thing that also helped for the promotion of the rights of the LGBT group was the first Gay Olympics which took place in San Francisco in 1982 with the aim to promote inclusion, acceptance and participation for everyone, which means that everyone can participate regardless of their background, gender or sexual orientation because there are no qualifying standards.
Additionally, many sport LGBT clubs were founded in order to provide a possibility and safer environment for this community. However, this does not solve the problems for those who are still not ready to be known by the public as part of this group, which only shows that those are the ones that need help and support as well as encouragement.
Today there are also many foundations founded by former or present athletes as well as NGO organizations that work actively on raising awareness about these issues and providing help for people facing this kind of issues. The goal is to help as many people as possible by first of all, educating people on the topic, especially young people at school, because it is there that all the problems appear. It is also very important to stop the hate speech and LGBT phobic language which only has negative consequences for this group of people.
The reason why our project was written in the first place was to address and tackled these issues mentioned above. One of its aims is to also promote greater understanding and to raise awareness about the effects of discrimination of LGBT people, and in the same time to provide support for them in the field of sport. Another one is to educate young people how to quickly address LGBT phobic language as well as to establish a strong network with other organization which will further work on promoting LGBT rights in the field of sport.