A national newspaper has sparked outrage with a front page telling readers about the “SECRET OF TWO GAY PREM FOOTIE ACES”.
Today’s Daily Star’s headline is positioned next to a picture of a pregnant Coleen Rooney, who is the wife of former England captain Wayne Rooney.
This led the paper to add: “(Not Rooney obviously!)”
The last player to come out while playing was Justin Fashanu, who came out in 1990 but died by suicide in 1998 after years of homophobic abuse.
The paper’s blaring headline, which the paper claims as “EXCLUSIVE,” is based on a story which was widely reported yesterday.
Former Premier League footballer Carl Hoefkens revealed that two of his teammates in England were out as gay to the rest of the squad.
The player, who posed for a gay magazine five years ago with the caption: “gay is okay”, said one of the men brought his boyfriend to training.
And Hoefkens, who played for Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, also said he had a gay teammate while in Belgium.
Speaking to Belgian outlet De Zondag, Hoefkens said the players were open about their sexuality when they were playing with him, but wanted to keep their personal lives private.
“I won’t name names as I respect their requests,” the ex-defender said.
Despite this reasonable explanation, the Daily Star printed that the players’ sexualities were “SECRET”, rather than simply a personal matter.
You know, as if every footballer has to reveal their sexuality.
As if there comes a point in every straight player’s life when they have to announce to their fans, their teammates and their manager that yes, it’s true: I’m heterosexual.
On Twitter, Stonewall wrote: Discussing homophobia in sport and how to tackle it? Great.
“Speculating about the sexuality of players on the front page? Really not great.”
The LGBT charity continued: “Making an issue out of someone possibly being gay is everyday homophobia in itself.
“This sort of speculation sends a negative message to sports fans and professionals alike, LGBT or otherwise.
“We must work together to make sport everyone’s game & ensure all LGBT people feel included & welcomed.
“Outing players does not achieve that,” the charity concluded.
People were also quick to point out the flaws with the front page, with one responding: “There’s a difference between private and secret.”
There’s a difference between private and secret. They’re footballers. Their sexuality does not impact that. Why is this news? pic.twitter.com/SJ1l6rm6iR
— SamMullier (@SolaMulier) October 23, 2017
Another wrote: “It’s not a secret – it’s private!” with an emoji that really drives the point home.
It's not a secret – it's private! 🖕 pic.twitter.com/WjEvfZ2n8Y
— Joshua Dowen (@JoshuaDowen1) October 23, 2017
One person said simply: “Who cares? Private > Secret”
People including Ryan Atkin – the first English football referee to come out as gay – said headlines like this were why people in the game haven’t come out publicly.
Atkin, who became the first out gay football referee to officiate an English professional match in August, wrote: “You wonder why people won’t come out!
“Disgrace #Dailystar and the player selling out!! Not inclusive! 😡” he added.
Another person said that they “thought we had moved on as a nation. It’s their business and no one else’s”.
Some were upset that the paper decided to place a picture of a pregnant Coleen Rooney next to the headline.
Neither she nor her husband are involved in the story, but both are prominent in the world of football.
Some, however, were just happy that there were people out there who had the same reaction as them.
“The responses here are amazing,” one wrote.
One said the replies restored their “faith in humanity”.
It should also be noted that Hoefkens spent four years playing in England, only one of which was in the Premier League.
Because of this, it’s quite possible that at least one of the players was not a top-flight player.
Hoefkens did say he played alongside a footballer “who was a genuinely big name,” but as far as anyone knows, he could have been referring to a player in Belgium.