Former player and equality expert Kieron Brady speaks with EWM in this week’s UNDISCLOSED interview, revealing his beliefs of how ‘football has failed’ Robbie Rogers following the USA international’s decision to ‘step away’ from football after announcing he is gay.
Despite leading stars in various other sports publicly coming out, there remained just two players before Rogers to do so within professional football, and only one of them was English.
Brady, who spent the majority of his own playing career with Sunderland, was inspired by his experiences within the game to found an organisation to tackle and educate on all discrimination within football.
Although pleased that Rogers – who finished his career in England at Leeds United – has found the strength to come out, Brady believes that his decision to discontinue playing is a reflection on football not creating a ‘welcoming environment’ for gay players, showing ‘negligence’.
Justin Fashanu remains the only professional footballer within Britain to publicly come out as a gay player. Tragically, eight years later, the former England under-21 international took his own life at, aged 37.
Still, 23 years on, Brady doesn’t believe football has progressed in making substantial strides in eradicating ‘illnesses’ and prejudices such as homophobia. Although governing bodies are reported to have offered support to Rogers – whether he hangs up his boots permanently or not – Brady admits he’s been left ‘enraged from an equality perspective’ to see Rogers seemingly feel as though stepping away from the sport is his only alternative to move forward.
Statistics show a staggering 98% of footballers never play past the age of 25. If Robbie Rogers decides not to return to football, he will join that list.
Brady has urged football to ‘double their efforts’ in making substantial, long-term effects in ensuring players’ welfare by eradicating homophobia – which he claims ‘has taken an early lead’.
Although up until now a largely unprecedented circumstance within game, Brady believes it’s the game’s ‘responsibility to wider society’ to build a more welcoming environment for players to feel free to come out to without fearing any discrimination.
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