This June, much of the sports world will be focused on the World Cup in Brazil. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people will be among the millions of fans watching the games.
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Anti-LGBT slurs are still commonly used by soccer fans in stadiums around the world, from London to Mexico City. In addition to anti-gay cheers, recent reports indicate that t-shirts are being produced in Brazil that feature anti-LGBT slurs.
Since many of the slurs are chanted by the crowds in the stadium, they are then broadcast to the viewing audience at home.
GLAAD sent a letter to FIFA Presidenet, Joseph Blatter, asking him to take a stand against anti-LGBT slurs in FIFA stadiums. We outlined several actions FIFA could take. The letter reads, in part:
I am writing you today to ask FIFA to take a strong stand against homophobic language. Myself and many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates around the world are deeply concerned that LGBT fans are often put in danger by the homophobic attitudes present at many matches. We think this is particularly important as World Cup commences.
While Article 3 of your statutes includes sexual orientation in its list of groups protected from discrimination, we believe more action is necessary to ensure LGBT fans feel safe during World Cup.
Unfortunately anti-gay insults are commonly heard during games in many parts of the world. Other activities like the sale of t-shirts in Brazil with slogans like "Maradona Maricón" and "C. Ronaldo Is Gay" are also very worrisome.
As you can imagine, hearing this type of anti-LGBT language makes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families and friends not only feel insulted but unsafe. As the world converges on Brazil, we want to ensure World Cup is a safe and celebratory event for everyone.
So far, there has been no response. Read the full letter here.
You can see past attempts to curb the use of slurs by watching some of these videos:
FIFA’s history with LGBT people
Article 3 of the FIFA statutes state:
Discrimination of any kind against a Country, private person or group of people on account of race, skin color, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.
The 2018 World Cup is going to be held in Sochi, Russia, which has come under heavy criticism since the Olympics since Russia passed an "anti-propaganda" law that is silencing LGBT citizens and promoting violence against them. Additionally, the 2022 World Cup is scheduled to be held in Qatar, where being gay is illegal and LGBT people can be imprisoned. When FIFA President Sepp Blatter was asked about Qatar's anti-LGBT laws, his response was to laugh and state that LGBT fans who plan to attend should “refrain from sexual activity.” He later apologized.
Out LGBT soccer players
In recent years, more and more athletes, both professional and amateur, are coming out as LGBT. Perhaps the most famous in the soccer world is Robbie Rogers, who now plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
In 2011, Jaiyah Saelua of American Samoa became the first openly transgender person to play in a FIFA World Cup qualifier. Her performance in the match was instrumental to breaking the American Samoan team’s losing streak by clearing a goal-bound ball from the opposing team and preserving their first ever win. Saelua has been featured in the recently released documentary Next Goal Wins.
Although these soccer players will not participate in the World Cup in Brazil, it is important to highlight key athletes as they help pave the pave for equality in soccer all over the world. Those athletes include:
Nadine Angerer, a goalkeeper for the German National Soccer Team and Portland Thorns FC in the NWSL (National Women's Soccer League). In January 2014, Angerer was named FIFA Women's World Player of the Year. In 2010 Angerer openly came out as bisexual: “I am very open about this, because I am of the opinion there are nice guys and nice women,” said Angerer “Besides, I find it totally silly to have a general definition. … I see no problem for me to come out of the closet. This is nothing new for me, so I can deal with the issue in a totally relaxed manner.”
Bente Nordby, former Norwegian National Team goalkeeper retired from the game in 2008. Just 3 years earlier, Nordby publicly came out in an article for Se & Hör. Nordby is the second-most capped player for Norway's National Team with 172 international appearances. The last professional team Nordby played for before retiring was Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, France. After her retirement as a player, she joined Lillestrøm SK as a goalkeeper coach.
Jessica Landström, a player for the Swedish National Team and Damallsvenskan club Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC. She publicly came out in November of 2008 in an article for QX Magazine. She scored the winning goal at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in a game against Colombia, advancing Sweden to semi-finals. Landström was recognized as a Breakthrough Player of the Year at the 2008 Swedish Football Awards.
Thomas Hitzlsperger, the German National Midfielder who played for world class soccer clubs such as Everton, and West Ham United came out as gay just a month before the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. "I'm coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sports people forwards" said Hitzlsperger.
Megan Rapinoe, a midfielder for the U.S. National Soccer Team and Seattle Reign FC in the National Women's Soccer League came out less than a month from the 2012 London Olympics. Rapinoe was the first ever soccer player who scored a goal from a corner kick at the Olympic Games. She is also an advocate for the LGBT community. Her involvement includes organizations such as Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Athlete Ally. In 2013 she was recognized with Board of Directors Award by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
Sarah Walsh, a retired member of the Australia women's national association football team also played professionally for the Western Sydney Wanderers FC in Australia's W-League. Sarah Walsh represented Australia at the 2004 Olympics, 2006 AFC Women's Asian Cup and the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. As of 2012, Walsh has been in a relationship with a fellow out soccer player, Megan Rapinoe.
Anton Hysén, Swedish footballer who plays in the National Premier Soccer League for Myrtle Beach FC. He won the seventh season of a Swedish show, Let's Dance making him the first openly gay competitor to win this competition. In March of 2011, came out in a Swedish Football Magazine, Offside. Daily Mail has described him as the "first high-profile Swedish footballer to announce that he is gay"
LGBT people in Brazil
Brazil’s highest court ruled in 2011 in favor of civil unions, requiring notaries register the unions of all couples, regardless of gender and orientation. Still, the LGBT community in Brazil still lacks many protections, according to activists there.
In 2012, more than 3,000 complaints of violence against the LGBT community were documented. Many of these crimes go unpunished because the country has no hate crimes laws.
The highest incidence rates of violence in Brazil are against transgender women. From November 20th 2012 to November 1st 2013, 95 transgender people were murdered, the highest number in any country included in the study.
For more information, help, and guidance, please contact GLAAD. We can put you in touch with LGBT athletes, respond to specific questions, and help guide your coverage about LGBT players and fans in the World Cup:
Vice President of Programs and Communications
Director of News
Si desea comunicarse con un representante de GLAAD del departamento de Medios en Español:
Director of Spanish Language Media
Janet Arelis Quezada
Spanish Language Media Strategist
GLAAD has also created World Cup Playbooks for media outlets covering the World Cup, available in English or Spanish.