Victor Gutiérrez, an openly gay Spanish water polo player who came out in 2016, says an opponent twice called him the Spanish word for “faggot” during a match a week ago. The player, Nemanja Ubovic, has been suspended pending an investigation, but he denies using the slur.
The incident occurred during a Spanish league match between Gutiérrez’s Terrassa team and Ubovic’s Sabadell team. According to Gutiérrez, he and Ubovic exchanged words during the match and Ubovic replied, “shut up, maricon.” The word is a common Spanish gay slur that roughly translates to “faggot.”
After the match, Gutiérrez refused to shake Ubovic’s hand, causing the Serbian-born player to call him a maricon again, Gutiérrez, 30, said in a series of tweets. Below is a translation of the tweets:
Today sadly I have to tell you that I have suffered an episode of homophobia while competing. A rival has called me 2 times “FAGGOT”.
It is unfortunate that these behaviors occur in sports venues and that they also go unpunished.
I hope the @RFEN_Oficial [Royal Spanish Swimming Federation] show your rejection of LGTBIphobia. I am VERY PROUD to be who I am and to be who I am. But today my tears are of rage and helplessness because a fellow player wants to attack me
The referees have not recorded it in the minutes because they have not heard it. But both other players and fans have heard it.
I am 30 years old and I am a professional and I try to do activism from a positive view of my experience, but I think I do myself a disservice by keeping quiet
But this happens every day in swimming pools, soccer fields, tennis courts ... And it is not only experienced by professionals, but also by CHILDREN. I just hope that together we will eliminate this SCAR from sport at once. TOLERANCE is greater than LGTBIphobia
After Ubovic was suspended while the incident is being investigated, Gutiérrez expressed his thanks for the support he received and said his concern wasn’t for himself being called names, but for the homophobia that affects young people.
“This episode isn’t going to define my life,” he said, “but unfortunately such things indeed mark the lives of many young guys forever and we can’t permit it. ... We’ll continue this very important fight. I’m sending you a big kiss.”
Ubovic, through his lawyer, denied the allegations he used a gay slur, calling Gutiérrez’s social media posts “sensationalist,” and claiming Gutiérrez called him a “shitty immigrant.”
Gutiérrez, “claimed that Nemanja Ubovic allegedly called him ‘maricon,’ which is a derogatory term for a homosexual in Spanish, with an intent to insult him personally,” the lawyer said. “However, his allegations are absolutely incorrect, considering that Ubovic never intended to insult him on the basis of his sexual orientation.”
Gutiérrez’s Terrassa team released a statement of support, while the Sabadell team said it rejected anything that “went against the values of respect, tolerance and equality.”
Gutiérrez, who played on Spain’s Olympic water polo team, said he came out publicly in 2016 because “as a gay athlete, I feel the responsibility to discuss it.”