The San Diego Loyal midfielder Collin Martin made headlines when his team-mates walked off in protest when a homophobic comment was aimed at him during a game.
What was it like to come out as a gay professional footballer at 23?
Growing up I was ready to sacrifice myself to play the sport I love. It was something I thought I was going to hide. But I was five years into playing professional football and had the support of my family, friends and the two professional teams I’d played on. I needed a little bit of urging from a good friend outside the team to let me know how much of a big deal my coming out was going to be for me to want to achieve that. I was nervous, I was scared, but you get to a point where the people you really care about are the ones that are supporting you.
A report commissioned by Bonusfinder found 17 per cent of respondents still feel professional sportspeople should hide their sexuality.
If fans or people at the club want my best performance they are going to want me to be completely comfortable in myself. I don’t think they would want me to hide a big part of who I am or my sexuality if ultimately I’m going to contribute more on the field.
Your team-mates came off the pitch in protest at a homophobic remark you received in a game in 2020 against Phoenix Rising. How did that come about?
A player said a homophobic slur to me just before half-time and I told the referee. My coach (Landon Donovan) and team-mates agreed if nothing was done about it then we were going to walk off the field. Walking off the field and having my sexuality impact a match was the last thing I wanted. But the show of support from my coach and my team-mates was a positive message that was relayed to the world, so I’m really proud of that.
Moving on to last month’s World Cup, how did you feel when attempts for captains to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband were abandoned?
I was waiting to see how overtly Fifa and Qatar were going to be uninterested in having a conversation regarding LGBTQ people and thought they may allow the armband but say, ‘That’s enough’. To see them take away that show of support was really upsetting. I think it’s just a call for more to be done to try to hold these people accountable because they clearly have no interest in pushing growth for LGBTQ people in the game. They have shown they don’t care.
What about the level of support from the players?
The German action of covering their mouths and showing solidarity was nice to see. I would have liked to have seen an England player speak up about it. The US spoke a little bit but it would have been nice to have seen a little bit more of a demonstration or for players to have spoken more outwardly about it. But I can’t hold it against them because they were put in a tough position.
If you had been a USA player would you have felt able to play in Qatar?
That’s a tough question. I think ultimately I would have participated but I would have definitely been a part of speaking out and speaking to the people in the country that we were playing in that don’t feel safe living there and who are unable to be who they are.
Did you feel mixed emotions the tournament had such a fantastic final?
When there is an amazing World Cup final like we saw, you want it to be in a place where we can all be happy and able to celebrate it. You would like to see this tournament awarded to a more progressive country, in a place where there aren’t blatant human rights issues.
Why do you feel there are no openly gay footballers in the Premier League?
Maybe when you’re at the top of the game like that you don’t want anything to keep you from living out your dream and playing at Premier League level. I know just from watching the demands on these players and the scrutiny and the level that they have to play at. I hope we see a gay player come out soon – it would make a huge impact. I think in the UK the fans and media will support a player that does come out. I have had so many team-mates support me so I hope that wouldn’t be an issue.
Collin Martin has partnered with BonusFinder to understand the representation and attitudes towards the LGBTQIA+ community in US professional sports teams
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