“I didn’t say I was hetero. I didn’t have to.”
With those words, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp shows he gets one reason why coming out can be difficult for LGBTQ athletes — few people are comfortable talking about their private life publicly, yet that’s the prerequisite for anyone coming out gay.
“Of course, I think we all agree, it should not be like this. Obviously, Josh doing that and it being such a big story, that is the problem we have ... that it’s not normal or that he has to make an announcement and can’t just be living his private life and nobody should be bothered about that,” Klopp said in his news conference on Tuesday.
“What I can tell you with 30 years in the industry, I never had a dressing room where it would have been a problem at all. The problem is not the inner circle, the problem is the wider thing. We all have to work on it.
Klopp’s comments about the absurdity of gay people in sports having to come out while straight people don’t echoed those by Las Vegas Raiders lineman Carl Nassib, who came out in June. “What other fucking gay dude has to come out to his entire fucking business?” Nassib said on teammate Darren Waller’s podcast.
The awkwardness of needing a coming out announcement is something I think holds many LGBTQ athletes and coaches back. Who wants to have to give a news conference or use social media to talk about their sexuality?
Yet it’s necessary for people to know there are LGBTQ people in sports. Nassib came out on June 21 and was no more gay than he was the day before, but until he publicly disclosed hsi orientation there were no out NFL players. Cavallo, in his coming out announcement, pointed to the exhaustion of staying in the closet as his main motivation. “I’m tired of trying to perform at the best of [my] ability and to lead this double life,” Cavallo said. “It’s exhausting. It’s something I don’t want anyone to experience.”
Klopp said one positive of Cavallo coming out was to bring the issue front and center in soccer. “I’m really thankful that he did it because now we talk again and I’m not sure when was the last time we talked about this subject and now we talk again and that’s always a good start for changes,” Klopp said.
While I applaud Klopp for speaking up for Cavallo, I hope he becomes a consistent voice for inclusion in soccer. It’s people like him with power who can build a culture where a player can come out in a positive manner.