San Diego Loyal midfielder Collin Martin believes that a number of pressing factors may be preventing gay Premier League players from coming out and feeling comfortable about being themselves in the public eye. There are currently no openly gay players in England’s top flight, although Blackpool youngster Jake Daniels became the first male professional footballer in the UK since Justin Fashanu to come out back in May.
Plenty of progress has been made regarding homosexuality in football over the last few years, but the subject remains somewhat taboo and there is still work to be done in order to continue breaking down the stigma at all levels from the Premier League down to grassroots. Martin, who came out as gay back in 2018, believes that almost anything can contribute to players not wanting to publicly reveal their sexualities, including their family situations, the advice given by their representatives or negative attitudes from team-mates and coaches.
“You never know what the barrier’s going to be, because it really could be anything,” Martin exclusively told Express Sport. “I’ve talked in my own personal story that growing up in the church was really hard for me, so that was a barrier I had to overcome. That was the biggest obstacle between me and my parents.
“My parents obviously were heavily invested in the church and I had my questions about if I were to come out, how I would be supported in the church. I thought if my parents brought me to church and this is where they feel safe and part of the community, does that mean when I come out to them, are they going to support me?
JUST IN: Chelsea target Youssoufa Moukoko issues furious response to ‘lies’
“We don’t always know the factors for gay athletes, what’s going to keep them in the closet or not. It could be an agent advising a player: ‘You know what, I think it’s best for you not to come out until we get you a transfer or into a different club’. Or it could be team-mates and people at the club, with homophobia and things people say.”
Martin went on to explain that any closeted Premier League players should be aware of the importance of staying true to themselves and putting their own personal lives ahead of their football careers, but insisted that it can take time to work up the courage to come out in an environment where so few have done so before.
“Yeah, I’m sure [there are], maybe there are players who are questioning their sexuality or who are maybe bisexual and yeah, I’m sure there are closeted players,” added Martin.
“When I hear that it pains me to think that they’re having to hide a huge part of themselves for whatever reason it might be. Maybe it’s because they don’t accept themselves first, maybe it’s because they’re fearful or so focused on football and their sport. But there’s more to life than soccer and I think that was important for me to realise when I was first starting to explore my sexuality, that it’s something I’m going to have to live with my whole life.
“Soccer is something I’ve known my whole life and is so important to me, but if I don’t figure out this major aspect of my life then I can’t continue on. I just hope those players find it within themselves to keep trying to explore that part of themselves and reach out to get support if they need it to be able to live openly.”
Collin Martin, San Diego Loyal soccer player, who came out as gay in 2018, has partnered with BonusFinder and LGBT HERO to understand representation and attitudes towards the LGBTQIA+ community in US professional team sports.