Manchester United is one of the latest teams to sign on to the Football v. Homophobia campaign in England. (Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Professional sports have been described as the "final frontier" when it comes to being out about your homosexuality. Only occasionally do we get stories that challenge that status quo — there's Jason Collins, for example, who last year became the first openly gay player in the NBA (though he wasn't signed to any team this season), or Calgary Flames GM Brian Burke and his work with the You Can Play project.
In England, football leagues have been confronted with homophobia — in fact, in Brighton, the so-called "gay capital of Britain," fans have reported being subjected to homophobic chants and abuse on multiple occasions.
But yesterday, two prominent Premier League clubs, Manchester United and Chelsea, joined the Football v. Homophobia campaign, an initiative designed to tackle prejudice against LGBT football players and supporters.
The clubs join nine other Premier League teams in lending their support to the campaign. The idea of the campaign is for clubs to challenge homophobic behaviour and to encourage LGBT players to join the game on both a professional and a grassroots level.
"For us as players and role models, we all recognize the importance of the Football v. Homophobia campaign," said West Ham captain Kevin Nolan. "We're passionate about supporting this and we hope that it sends out a message that there is no place for discrimination in football, nor in any sport."
Outside of the Premier League, only 17 of 72 professional Football League teams have signed on to the initiative. But Football v. Homophobia is gaining steam, and the organization hopes to gain support from at least half the teams.
"This isn't just about players coming out," said Football v. Homophobia director Lou Englefield. "It's about all of us — including heterosexual players and fans who attend matches week in week out — being willing to speak out and take visible action to challenge prejudice in the game."