Tennis legend Billie Jean King and rugby's Gareth Thomas were among gay and lesbian athletes who met with British Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss an initiative to end homophobia in sports.
King, who happens to be in England for Wimbledon, talked about progress that has been made by gay and lesbian athletes since she was outed in 1981. From the BBC:
"I lost all my endorsements in 24 hours, I lost a lot of money. Today that would not happen. When Amelie Mauresmo came out she did not lose any endorsements - in fact she got extra ones."
Nonetheless, homophobia in sports is real and King talked about the need for gay athletes to deal with their orientation on their own terms:
"The difficulty is are you going to be criticized or isolated in your job environment?" she said. "Sometimes it depends on their environment and the people around them. The most important thing is they have to be safe."
The initiative to end homophobia in sports is gaining traction and events like the one Thursday at the prime minister's official residence are important in raising awareness of the issue.
Cameron even wrote an op-ed for Pink News about sports homophobia:
In order to end homophobia and transphobia we need cultural change and we also need role models. Whereas we’ve many to choose from in business, the arts and politics, we have too few in sport. I congratulate Gareth Thomas and Steven Davies for the decision they made and the inspiration they’ve given and I am delighted that two of the all-time greats of tennis – two magnificent role models – are backing our work in this area: Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King – who I was delighted to welcome to No10. But, put simply, you don’t have to be gay to be a role model, so we need others who care for this issue to stand up and be counted. Role models in sport are also needed to help tackle bullying in schools, young people look to the stars they admire and if we don’t have enough positive role models then behaviour won’t change.