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When will football get past its homophobia?

When will football get past its homophobia?

Competitive sports are notorious for being homophobic, and generally exclusive of anyone who is not another well-built man.

But even after Michael Sam’s coming out publically in 2014: footballers still create a toxic environment where gay players cannot feel safe.

As of Wednesday, Odell Beckham Jr.’s suspension has been upheld. The wide receiver for the New York Giants became violent after losing a game to the Carolina Panthers last week.

He revealed – or ‘suggested via proxies’, according to sports writer Steve Almond – he was provoked by homophobic slurs.

Beckham isn’t gay, as far as we know, but it’s been suggested he serves as a prime target for such slurs because he dyes his hair, and is ‘slim’ (by football standards).

In a recent article for Salon.com, Almond positions football in America as the focal point for a lethal culture of homophobia, which is refusing to mature with rest of the country.

As part of this, he discusses the bizarre case of the Wells report, or why offensive lineman Jonathan Martin quit his team in 2013. It discovered Martin had been bullied out of his position and much of it was homophobic in nature even though Martin, too, showed no signs of being gay.

After the investigation it was revealed publically Richie Incognito had sent Martin a number of intimidating texts, which Incognito claimed were to ‘toughen [Martin] up’.

The texts were explicitly homoerotic and homophobic. Here are some:

Incognito: ‘No dude hookers u faggot’
Incognito: ‘Don’t blame ur gay tendancies on [name redacted]’
Martin: ‘I’m gonna get more bitches in 2 nights than all of you combined’
Incognito: ‘Stop it. By bitches u mean cocks in ur mouth’
Incognito: ‘Goodnight slut’

At other times Incognitio could text sentiments like ‘I miss u’ and even ‘I love u’, but always straining against the evidence to accuse Marin of being gay.

In all these correspondences: Martin tries to brushes it off as playful teasing. Yet, after leaving the team, Martin went into psychiatric care.

Odell Beckham Jr’s case seems to show endemic homophobia still hasn’t left the game – and is still a go-to insult for any men players want to accuse of being effeminate and weird.