Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.
Volleyball, 2011: Michael, a professional volleyball player in Brazil, took the court at an opponent's gym this spring for a playoff match and was taunted all game by 3,000 fans chanting "bicha," or faggot. Fed up with the abuse, Michael disclosed after the game that he is gay.
“I’m gay. Everyone knows who I am. My team fully respects my sexuality. I have been playing for 10 years and everyone has treated me well and fair. I do not feel the need to let everyone know about my sexuality.”
The incident got a lot of media attention in Brazil, where the subject of gays in sports had seldom been covered. Most people were outraged that Michael had to take that kind of abuse. Michael's teammates rallied around him during and after the match.
Game 2 of the playoff series had a totally different atmosphere. Back before his home fans, Michael was greeted with cheers as people wore pink in support and one teammate even donned a rainbow-colored jersey. Michael had the song "I Will Survive" played over the loudspeaker.
In the decisive third game back on the opposing court, fans this time were on their best behavior. The team was fined $30,000 for allowing the homophobic taunts to continue. The story, as ugly as it started, forced Brazil to acknowledge that there were gay athletes in the pro sports ranks.
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