LGBT advocacy group Stonewall and live score app Forza Football have surveyed 50,000 Forza users to solicit answers about attitudes towards LGBT issues in soccer. Forza says their users came from 38 countries across five continents and put together an interactive that lets you search by country to see survey results.
Among the questions asked were “Would you feel comfortable if a player in your national team came out as gay or bisexual” and “Should FIFA consider LGBT rights when deciding who hosts international tournaments.”
According to the survey, 63% of Americans would “feel comfortable” with an openly gay or bisexual national team player. The survey also says this is a fairly big jump from three years ago, when only 52% of Americans would feel comfortable with an openly gay or bi NT player.
There’s a couple of caveats here. First, we don’t exactly know their survey methodology, so who can say how many fans in each country made up the data sample or where those fans are concentrated. Second, the survey did not break down results by gender because “both organizations wanted the focus to be on sexuality rather than gender.”
But the ways that sexuality can intersect with gender can create extremely potent differences in how LGBT men and women are perceived, something we see play out when female athletes come out as opposed to the (much, much) smaller sample of male athletes. When female athletes come out, many times the reaction is one of expectation - after all, aren’t all women in sports lesbians? Women engaging in a traditionally male pursuit are already read as outside the status quo. But when male athletes come out, there are different expectations of them based on perceptions of masculinity and who can and should play sports. There’s also often more at stake, at least financially; a female athlete making $30k/year may feel more emboldened to come out than a male athlete making $30M/year.
On the issue of FIFA considering LGBT rights in tournament bidding, 55% of Americans believed those rights should be considered when deciding who hosts international tournaments. In the countries hosting the next two World Cups, 26% of Russian fans and just 14% of fans in Qatar think LGBT rights should play a factor in awarding tournaments. Homosexuality is punishable by death in Qatar and a 2013 Pew survey said that 74% of Russians said society should not accept homosexuality.
Across all countries, the survey says 43% of fans have “witnessed homophobic behavior while attending a game.” In America specifically, 34% of the respondents said they had witnessed homophobic behavior at a live match and 68% said they would “feel confident in reporting abuse if they witnessed it.”
So. Survey results (once again, some caution here about methodology) indicate that one in three Americans would not feel “comfortable” with an openly gay or bi national team player, one in three have witnessed homophobic behavior at games, and one in three would not feel like they could report homophobic abuse. Assuming these numbers are accurate, that’s not really reassuring to LGBT soccer fans, knowing one out of every three people around them would have a problem with a gay or bi player wearing the USSF crest, or that one in three wouldn’t speak up for them if they saw homophobic abuse. On the flip side, at least now almost 2⁄3 of American fans would be okay with a gay or bi NT player, up from only 1/2, demonstrating that progress is possible. That could be due to the visibility of players like Megan Rapinoe and Robbie Rogers and gestures like MNT captain Michael Bradley wearing a rainbow armband after the massacre of 49 people at Orlando gay nightclub Pulse.
Soccer should be for everyone. Hopefully through the efforts of athletes, fans, federations, and organizations like Stonewall, it can truly be the world’s game.