Italian Soccer Union Head Says Gay Players Should Stay Closeted

In what appears to be a pattern of concern-trolling by players’ representatives in European soccer, the chief of the Italian players’ union, Damiano Tommasi, has advised against gay players coming out of the closet on the grounds that it would violate the sanctity of the locker room:

Homosexuality is still a taboo in football in the sense that there is a different kind of cohabitation to other professions. Expressing your personal sexuality is difficult in every professional environment and even more so for a footballer who shares a changing room with his team-mates, and hence also his intimacy with others. In our world it could cause embarrassment. In a sport in which you get undressed it could cause an extra difficulty in cohabitation. In other professions such as journalists or bank employees, this doesn’t happen.For them it’s easier to express themselves. But from a personal point of view, I think you can live without showing your own tendencies or you can do so in a discreet manner.

Let’s be clear: this isn’t about protecting gay players from having to feel strange and different. This is about protecting straight players from having to face their anxieties — and find out they might be false. This is about the false idea that locker rooms are already sexually neutral zones, because when it’s heterosexuality, it’s neutral and doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable, but if the specter of gayness creeps in everything is confused and weird and overwhelming. This is about the deeply illogical idea that if someone behaved in a dignified and professional fashion while they were in the closet, that they’ll suddenly become a sexual harasser upon coming out, an event that usually accords with people wanting to reassure their friends and family and coworkers that everything about them is still essentially the same.

This is the same kind of false expression of concern that happened back in August when Philipp Lahm, who captains the German national team, warned in his published autobiography that if gay players came out, they would be harassed into suicide. His only evidence for this, of course, as my colleague Zack Ford pointed out, was a teammate who killed himself over the fear that he would be arrested for sexual assault. And even if he’d had an actual example, this would be an argument about straight homophobes, not gay people living their lives openly and honestly.

In a way, this is a victory for gay people. There are no legitimate objections about the threat gay people pose to straight society. So homophobes have to find convoluted ways to pretend they care about the well-being of gay people instead. But it’s still kind of depressing.