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Yesterday Blackburn Rovers striker Colin Kazim-Richards was formally reprimanded for an anti-gay gesture — the first professional footballer in the United Kingdom to be found guilty of homophobia.
Kazim-Richards was fined £750 (about $1,370) for his actions, which were said to be abusive and insulting. Kazim-Richards was accused of simulating a sex act and making lewd gestures towards fans, which was corroborated by several witnesses in courts yesterday. He denied the charge and insisted that he was only "having a bit of banter" with fan, who he said had been insulting him.
The incident occured on February 12, 2013 in a match against Brighton — a team that is often the target of anti-gay behaviour. (There's a history of homophobic chants against Brighton, which you can read more about here.)
"The Brighton fans have been subjected to a lot of homophobic abuse over many years," Darren Balkham, the football liaison officer for Brighton and Hove Albion, said after the court hearing yesterday. "This was somewhat of a test case involving a professional footballer....We are where racism was 20 years ago. This was the first case where a professional footballer has been convicted of making a homophobic gesture towards the crowd."
Kazim Richards had previously been involved in the Kick It Out campaign, a high-profile anti-discrimination campaign that advocates for LGBT rights and awareness in football, both amateur and professional. You can read more about the efforts to curb homophobia in English football here.
Kazim-Richards now plays in Turkey for the Bursapor football club.
On the other side of the world, Australia also made news this week in the fight against discrimination in sports. Executives from all major sports leagues in the country signed a commitment yesterday to eliminate discrimination against gay people amongst players and fans.
The agreement was announced at the start of the Bingham Cup, the world cup of gay rugby. It includes a commitment to introduce policies that actively combat anti-gay attitudes and behaviour in professional sports.
"Put simply, we believe that every individual — whether they're players, supporters, coaches or administrators — should all feel safe, welcome and included, regardless of race, gender and sexuality," Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver said in a statement.
The announcement was also accompanied by an ad featuring star Australian athletes. You can watch it below:
And back here in North America, some good news in the world of college sports. Derrick Gordon, a guard on the University of Massachusetts basketball team, announced yesterday that he is gay. Gordon is the first Division 1 men's college basketball player to come out. He joins NBA player Jason Collins and college football player (and highly favoured draft pick) Michael Sam on the small — but growing — list of openly gay professional (or soon-to-be professional) athletes in North America.
"My time was just now," Gordon said. I was comfortable with who I am, and I didn’t want to keep hiding. I was hiding for four years. And that takes a toll when you have to be somebody who you’re not.”
(Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Gordon's U.Mass Minutemen made the recent NCAA tournament, but lost in their first game. Gordon will be on the team again next season, and he's already looking forward to taking the spotlight and being a role model.
“There’s a lot of kids out there killing themselves over this and not able to live how they want to live,” he said. “And I just want to be able to give the people confidence enough to say, ‘Hey, it’s all right to be gay. You can still play the sport that you love.’”