Homosexual Sportspeople: The Response

By Jenny Laurence (As seen in Pegasus Pages, December 2013)

Tom Daley,  the celebrated British athlete, and Olympic bronze medalist, has announced by way of an informal and heartfelt video on Youtube, that he has a boyfriend.

Now to some,  this may not come as a shock. To others, it may be heart-breaking. But what has captivated the various media channels is the way in which he delivered it. Daley responded to his family’s response of ‘Why don’t you just do a statement?’ by saying that he ‘Didn’t want them (the media) to get my words twisted,’ having recently been misquoted in a magazine interview.

Unfortunately nowadays, Daley always seems to be on the back foot when it comes to the media.  With celebrity news in general, the paps either get there first, or a professional media interview is designed to create a distance between the public and the sportsman. Being told naturally and personally provides an authenticity that cannot be replicated by anyone but themselves. And it takes some guts. Daley received many congratulations and mentions on twitter from the likes of Gary Lineker and Stephen Fry.

Apart from the sentimental regards, Mark Borkowski of the Guardian has also very accurately observed that trust is something consumers are now more interested in from a brand. ‘Businesses should learn from Daley. In a world defined by issues of trust and corporate transparency, differentiation in its real sense is not a tactic.’ Daley took control of his own brand and thus empowered him and his relationship status by stepping ahead of the social media.

This event  also highlights how, even  today, coming ‘out’ as an LGBT sports personality is still a big thing, when it shouldn’t be. The fact that  Daley felt obliged to tell his fans indicates that homosexuality is still an interesting and discussed subject, with newspapers focusing particularly on team sports such as football and rugby as being areas of concern. As Marina Hyde stated, team sport management do not ‘think about the potential detrimental financial impact to [a team’s] “product” of players performing while carrying secret burdens or living this sort of lie.’ Sportspeople should be allowed that freedom and ability to play regardless.

So this announcement by Tom Daley, a true, respected British icon, has clearly opened a can of worms. I only hope that in the future, sports players will feel comfortable enough to ‘be out’ as homosexual, without it being a big deal, and without having to think first of the repercussions they may experience in the media and their sporting career.

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