International Rugby League stars Sam and Thomas Burgess, who play on the Australian team co-owned by actor Russel Crowe, are urging people in the UK to tell their stories about homophobia in sport. “The Burgess Brothers” have recorded a video encouraging people to take 10 minutes and participate in the first study to quantify homophobia in UK sport and compare the results with other countries.
Sam Burgess, who will leave Australia this year to play for the English rugby union club Bath, says “I don’t see why there should be any discrimination about colour, sexuality, your heritage or where you’re from. Sport is a great thing, and it brings people from all different aspects of life together, so why should your sexuality be a problem? The only way we are going to understand the issue is if people get out there and tell their story so we can help fix it.”
Thomas Burgess said:
“We have a lot of gay friends and think that discrimination in sport is old fashioned and there is no place for it. In this day and age, we shouldn’t be discriminating against anyone, for anything.”
The Burgess Brothers say they are surprised there aren’t more openly gay players in professional sports. They say the study on homophobia in sports will help everyone understand why players don’t feel safe in coming out of the closet.
The study, called ‘Out on the Fields’ is an initiative of the organisers of Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 and is first broad-based Australian and international study on the issue of homophobia in sport. Participation is open to everyone regardless of sexuality. Those interested can visit outonthefields.com. Among other things, the study looks at whether people choose not to play team sports because of fear of discrimination as well as the prevalence of homophobia, such as slurs, among athletes and fans.
The support from the Burgess Brothers follows support from Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas, who is also the honourary president of the Kings Cross Steelers Rugby Union Club. The club will be traveling to Australia to compete in the Bingham Cup. “Many athletes around the world fear they won’t be accepted by their teammates and others if they are honest about their sexuality. I was one of those athletes and I wish, at the time, I understood how many other people were experiencing the same thing. We need to change sporting culture so that sexuality is no longer an issue and sport is welcoming and accepting to everyone,” said Thomas.
Out on the Fields is being conducted by sports research company Repucom. The results and final report will be reviewed by researchers at 6 universities around the world, including London’s Brunel University.
“There has been a lot of discussion about homophobia in sport, particularly in the past year. This historic research will help us move beyond the stories and anecdotes we hear and help us collect some hard, international numbers around the experiences of same-sex attracted athletes,” said Brunel Professor Ian Rivers.
The study is available at: outonthefields.com