Irish Exclusive: Michael Sam Urges More to Take Part in Study on Homophobia in Sport

As Gay Games 9 take place in Cleveland, Michael Sam, one of the world’s highest profile LGBT athletes, is urging people to take part in the first international study on homophobia in sports.

The study is the first to collect national data about discrimination in Ireland as well as other major English speaking countries, so they can be compared. This will help researchers determine both the extent of the problem internationally as well as identify which countries are doing the best job at creating sports cultures that are welcoming and safe to gay, lesbian and bisexual people. 

Michael Sam appears in a video alongside sports stars from the UK, US and Australia. This includes British born Rugby players Sam and Tom Burgess, World Cup US/Australian soccer player Sarah Walsh, international rugby player and LGBT rights advocate David Pocock and ‘Aussie Rules’ player and LGBT rights advocate Brock McLean.

Researchers conducting the “Out on the Fields” study need 200 more people in Ireland to take part in the study, to reach their target of 500 people. They also need more people from other countries. The study is open to everyone, regardless of sexuality or whether they have played sports. It takes around 10 minutes to complete online through www.outonthefields.com

“We are supporting this historic study because it has the potential to help provide a much clearer understanding of the extent and nature of homophobia in sports. Since Gay Games I in 1982, the Gay Games have been a tool against homophobia in sport. Recent high-profile coming outs should not hide how endemic the problem remains on the whole,” said Les Johnson, Vice-President of Membership of the Federation of Gay Games.

“Everyone has had a unique experience, which is why it is essential that we encourage a large number of LGBT people to share their stories, whether or not they themselves have played sports or experienced discrimination”, said Johnson.

The study was commissioned by organisers of The Bingham Cup, the world cup of gay rugby, being held in Sydney later this month. It is being conducted pro bono by sports research firm Repucom in consultation with researchers from 6 universities, including Brunel University (UK), Victoria University (AUS) and Pennsylvania State University (USA). Partners include The Federation of Gay Games, American anti-homophobia organisation You Can Play Project, the Australian Sports Commission and the International Gay Rugby Association and Board (IGRAB).  Results will be released later this year.

Dr. Sue Rankin, a retired professor from Pennsylvania State University, is a world respected pioneer of research into homophobia in sports. She is one of the experts reviewing the study and its results. “We’ve been really pleased with the number of people who have already taken part in the study and shared their stories, particularly men in Australia and the United States. We are on track for ‘Out on the Fields’ to be the largest study ever done on this issue. Having said this, as a former woman athlete and coach, I strongly encourage more women, in particular, to take part so we gain a broad picture of the entire LGBT community.”

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