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Documentary asks why there are so few out gay athletes in elite soccer

Stephen Byrne hosts the latest examination.

Middlesbrough v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew talked about gay soccer players for ‘Playing It Straight.’

Irish TV personality Stephen Byrne produced and hosted a documentary, Playing It Straight, airing today on Irish television exploring the issue of homosexuality and gay athletes in elite-level soccer. Byrne, who came out publicly last year, said over the years being gay has driven the life-long Chelsea fan to disenchantment with soccer. He sought to explore why no World Cup soccer players had come out publicly, with MLS’ Robbie Rogers being the closest to that level.

One element of the documentary on which Byrne seems to hang his theory is the lack of response he got from trying to contact every manager in England’s top two divisions. He secured an interview with only one, Crystal Palace FC’s Alan Pardew, who said he sees no homophobia among coaches and managers in soccer:

A couple things on all of this. First, these soccer clubs get lots of requests. We don’t know how hard he tried to get the interviews, but it’s not surprising that most wouldn’t agree to it, even if it were to talk about a love of beer (though securing only one interview is disappointing).

What’s great is that Pardew’s thoughts are pretty revealing. He attributes the perception of soccer being homophobic to “locker room banter” (sound familiar?). It’s something we’ve heard over and over and over again: The homophobia and over heterosexism in the locker rooms and on the field is the most powerful element keeping LGBT athletes in fear.

We look forward to seeing Byrne’s entire documentary, Playing It Straight, when it hits the Web.