Whenever people have asked me about publicly discussing the gay athletes they know in pro sports, I always warn them of two things: 1) Don’t say a name and 2) Don’t say a number.
Case in point.
Openly gay former Leeds United managing director David Haigh is making a pretty outrageous claim as speculation again heats up in England about gay pro soccer players. Haigh has told Out News Global that 20 gay Premier League and Championship soccer players have come out to him in just the last three years. That’s one every seven weeks for three years straight.
“They are still playing, in the Premier League and Championship, but I won’t mention names as a witch hunt helps no one,” Haigh said.
You know what also doesn’t help anyone? Claiming some number like “20” gay Premier League players have come to you in three years. No one believes that almost two dozen gay pro soccer players have come out to him. No one. That’s more than the total number of pro male team-sport athletes who have come out publicly while still active in any sport around the world. Combined. Ever. Times two.
Talking to gay pro athletes over the years, many of them say they have spoken to zero or just a couple men in their sport. FA chief Greg Clarke has this very year said he has been able to identify zero gay men in his sport who will talk to him privately and off-the-record.
Yet this guy has talked to 20.
What sucks about his claim is that everyone is talking about the number he claimed, instead of the content of his comments. It reminded me of Brendan Ayanbadejo falsely intimating he knew four gay NFL players who were talking about coming out publicly together. It was not at all true, and people today still talk about “those four NFL players”... who never existed.
Are there 20 gay athletes between the Premier League and EFL Championship? Maybe. Probably. What sucks is that this guy has made it about whether the’s talked to them or not.
Like I said, don’t mention a number.
To be sure, there was some real content to what Haigh said as well.
He squarely trained the fear of coming out on agents. It’s a theme we’ve heard many times before, and Haigh hit a bullseye.
“Being gay is still seen as a handicap and players get enough abuse on the pitch as it is,” he told The Mirror. “Agents all care about money. Very few care about changing anything. It is all about, ‘Can we get more money?’”
Of course the stupid thing is that the agents CAN and WILL get more money if their athlete comes out publicly as gay. This has been demonstrated over and over again.
Since there seem to be so many gay Premier League players Haigh is talking to, hopefully he can open the eyes of a couple of them to the benefits of coming out.
For more soccer news, visit SB Nation.