The outgoing president of the German soccer federation, Theo Zwanziger, called on gay players today “to have the courage to declare themselves” by coming out. The captain of Germany’s team, Philipp Lahm, responded by doubling down on comments he made in August discouraging players from making such disclosures:
LAHM: Football is like being the gladiators in the old times. The politicians can come out these days, for sure, but they don’t have to play in front of 60,000 people every week. I don’t think that the society is that far ahead that it can accept homosexual players as something normal as in other areas.
By humoring the perceived homophobia, Lahm is reinforcing the very stigma that might make it difficult for players to come out in the first place. Much as the U.S. military policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell required gay troops to lie to keep this jobs, Lahm’s negative message is a strain on the trust and teamwork he should be promoting as captain. If he is the team’s leader, he should take the initiative of promoting a more welcoming lockerroom instead of catering to the homophobic status quo.
Zwanziger, however, believes that Lahm is tolerant, saying, “If that’s how he sees the situation, I am not going to be the one to criticize him.”