A Bigot Is Sacked
This year appears to be starting the same as every other.
Another year brings more bigotry and tawdriness toward our LGBT community with a homophobic comment made by a sports figure garnering the attention of his team.
Lee Steele, who is an aging striker with the Oxford City team, posted a homophobic tweet. Oxford City is a seventh tier English league football group composed of mainly semi-professional players. Lee Steele is a journeyman pro of a player also known as a free agent in the states. He came to Oxford City in the 2009 season. Lee Steele is an accomplished player with a long history of wins and Championships.
What got the attention of his team was a tweet about a former teammate, Captain Gareth Thomas. Thomas is currently entering England’s version of the Celebrity Big Brother house. Lee’s tweet stated “I wouldn’t fancy the bed next to Gareth Thomas.”
Gareth Thomas is a highly accomplished rugby player and just happens to be openly gay. In October 2011, Thomas received Stonewall’s Hero of the Year award — he is a supporter of Childline and co-founder of Distinct Management. So when Oxford City learned of Steele’s bigotry, team management met to discuss the issue. Oxford City fired Steele, issuing the following statement, “The Oxford City board has decided to release Lee Steele in view of his recent comment via social media which is considered seriously contrary to the ethos of the club.”
In an effort to do damage control, Mike Ford, manager of the Southern Football League Premier Division club, told the BBC: “On this occasion Lee’s had to pay for his error of judgment. He’s made a homophobic comment, (but) that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s homophobic.”
No one ever knows what a person is truly thinking or the content of his heart; however, when comments like these are posted I believe we get a pretty good look under ones “hood.”
Homophobia remains rife in team sports and most predominate in football. The Justin Campaign against homophobia in football, named after gay footballer Justin Fashanu welcomed Oxford City’s actions with this release, “For far too long homophobic comments like the ones Steele made have been defended using the erroneous argument that such remarks as simply harmless ‘banter.’ They further stated: “However, we no longer accept racist ‘banter’, and likewise, we must never accept homophobic ‘banter.’ These kind(s) of comments, in which being gay or bisexual is used as joke, have immense power in dissuading member of the LGBT community from either playing or watching football.”
This type of behavior is not only detrimental it is also irreversible. Imagine a life without the camaraderie of sports. Imagine a gifted player unable to carry a team to victory, strictly based on his sexuality. The comments of Lee Steele are not only unacceptable they are destructive to a community.
I wonder how many teams have lost out on a Championship due to it. How many are reading articles like these and giving up on their dreams of playing sports? As 2012 begins to bloom, I hope and trust that the decisive and firm action of Oxford City will send a message to all players and teams that simple minded bigotry is no longer tolerated.
I look forward to the day of watching/playing sports based solely on athleticism and not worrying about hateful comments.
Spokes is a Richmonder and resident of Virginia for 10 years. He is a small business owner with a passion for outdoor activities - competing in numerous triathlons, sprints, olympics and half ironman distances.
St. Louis Rams’ Michael Sam, left, and his partner Vito Cammisano arrive at the ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL draft pick, was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the annual ESPY Awards on Tuesday. Sam, who announced earlier this year [...]July 17, 2014
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