This week Puerto Rican Boxer Orlando Cruz has officially announced his homosexuality to the world. LS looks into why homosexuality is still such an issue in many sports.
Last week boxer Orlando Cruz finally came out after “fighting for 24 years”.
The 31 year old, whose professional record of 18 wins from his 21 fights has put him fourth in the World Boxing Organisation’s featherweight world rankings. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney he competed for Puerto Rico alongside Miguel Cotto who has voiced his backing for his Cruz, saying “Orlando is my friend. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him, but I congratulate him.”
It took undoubted bravery for the man aptly nicknamed ‘El Fenómeno’ to break his silence and admit to being a “proud gay man”.
Cruz could lead the way for other sportspeople still struggling to be open about their sexuality and help them realise that the sooner others follow suit, the less of an issue it becomes.
Being the first boxer to publicly come out is truly a great step for the sport and it is an important place that Cruz will hold within boxing. Like it or not, sport is not just a professional pastime; it plays a major role in society. In female sport, tennis greats Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova both came out during their careers and their popularity did not waiver.
However, when it comes to men it seems the anxiety surrounding homosexuality persists to the extent that in Britain only three high profile figures have ever come out: the footballer Justin Fashanu, Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas and England cricketer Steven Davies.
Thomas said he did not want to be known as a gay rugby player but a rugby player who happens to be gay. This is exactly the attitude that needs to be embraced to erode the taboo surrounding homosexuality.
It is understandable that professional sportsmen don’t want to have their entire careers defined by their sexuality. It is normally for this reason that most sportsmen choose to wait to the end of their careers, after they feel they have established a strong enough reputation, before they out themselves.
There is no reason why there should be fewer gay or lesbian members of the sporting world than in any other profession but the combination of constant public scrutiny and the need to maintain a macho image has contributed to the conspiracy of silence that is long past its sell-by date.
The positive response to Orlando Cruz’ announcement is evidence that homophobia in sport is on the decline but still we seem surprised that an athlete should be gay. Frequent speculation about the sexuality of celebrities in tabloids and magazines also reinforces the problem.
Clearly homophobia pesists and it is only when the news of a sporting icon or A-list celebrity’s homosexuality is met with indifference that we will all have moved on.
Author: Freddie Mickshik