Chris Voth came out as gay in 2014 as a member of the Canadian volleyball team, but he says being open about his sexual orientation recently cost him a job overseas with a pro league.
Voth now plays for Team Lakkapää in the Finnish Volleyball Champions League but said that in September he was denied a contract in another country with a much higher-level league because he was openly gay. As he told a Finnish newspaper this weekend (in an article translated by a Finn for Outsports):
Voth lost a dream contract abroad earlier this season because the team found out he was gay.
"We almost had a contract and were negotiating details, housing and small things. All of a sudden they announced they weren't interested any more after all. It was because I'm gay. They said [to my agent] they didn't want to take that risk — they didn't want to have a player in their team who breaks boundaries. They claimed they were worried that the opponents' fans would endanger my safety, but some things made me suspect it was an excuse."
Voth doesn't want to reveal the country where this happened, but he says it was a country where the law and the culture accept homosexuality, and the level of major league volleyball is very high, higher than Finland.
"I don't want to name the country, because it is not the only country where these things happen. It wouldn't be fair. This is about the sports culture globally, not just about one country or team."
Voth says he has been totally accepted by his Finnish teammates, even though they told him he was surprisingly the first openly gay person they met. He is the first openly gay athlete in a Finnish pro team sport.
"I'm pretty relaxed about my homosexuality and I like to make jokes about this to make others relax too. I use comedy. [During long — up to 14-hour — bus travels to away matches and back home] they are curious and ask me funny, dirty questions. Their acceptance is unbelievable, especially for the fact that they hadn't known anyone who was gay."
It sucks that being open about who he is deprived Voth of a bigger contract in a higher level league and shows the power homophobia still has in sports. But by being openly proud, Voth has set an example for other athletes about the power of being true to oneself.
Here is a video of Voth accompanying the Finnish article: