David Gough opens up about confronting Colm O'Rourke over homophobic comments

The openly gay refree explained that he hit back at the well-known broadcaster as the comments he made on national television were homophobic and harmful to LGBT+ people

David Gough and Colm O'Rouke

All-Ireland referee David Gough publicly criticised RTÉ sports analyst Colm O’Rourke for the homophobic comments he made while discussing the black card rule on Allianz League Sunday almost a fortnight ago on February 2. O’Rourke, who made the comment that removing contact from the game would turn GAA football in a “namby-pamby pansy-boy” sport, received a lot of backlash online, with openly gay Gough criticising his use of homophobic language on national television.

Gough, who just recently won the Sports Award of the Year at the 2020 GALAS, is very vocal about LGBT+ rights and inclusion and recently delivered a talk in St Pat’s, Navan about his coming out story. At the talk, that O’Rourke was also present at, he posed a challenge to the 320 students to avoid the “pejorative use of homophobic language around their friends… to create a safer and more inclusive environment for LGBT students to come out”.

On Tuesday, Feburary 11, Gough felt compelled to speak about why he chose to call out O’Rouke for his homophobic comments, just days after he was witness to his speech at the school. Gough told RTÉ 2fm that he carefully composed the tweet saying; “I called out what I said was the pejorative use of homophobic language, which was meant to be a throw-away remark.”

Gough has known O’Rourke since the age of 12, when he was his manager while at school and made note of the positive impact he has had in his life. He went on to explain that although he believes O’Rouke’s comments did not come from a malicious place, they were damaging nonetheless, stating; “I would be the first to say that Colm [O’Rouke] meant no harm and he’s not homophobic, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it did cause harm to people from the LGBT community and that needs to be recognized.”

David went on to discuss how he feels an obligation to ensure other members of the LGBT+ community won’t face the same challenges he had to endure in the future, and part of that is calling out others for using homophobic language. He recounted: “I have been one of those people who have listened to that type of pejorative use of homophobic language in dressing rooms and in GAA grounds around Slane and Navan, and around the country, and I thought it was the right thing to do to call it out.”

He reiterated that he believes that O’Rourke’s comments came from a place of ignorance, rather than hate, which is why having an open discussion about the topic is so important, and not just for LGBT+ issues. Gough explained: “Colm may not have known that the language was a homophobic slur but we need to be big enough to be able to say that it is, that we have learned from it, and we move on. Equally, I might not know if someone is suffering from a racist slur or a sectarian slur because I’m not educated in what is offensive to them. But if someone said that to me, I would apologise immediately, learn from it, and move on. That’s the greatest thing we can take out of this, that there is a learning process, people were educated around it and we can just move on from it.”

David Gough believes that there is a toxic culture of homophobia in male sports which has led to a shortage of male LGBT+ role models in sports compared to their female counterparts. At the moment he is one of only three out LGBT+ men in Irish sport and in order to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment, Gough believes this toxic behaviour must be called out in order for people to learn why it is wrong.

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