Three-quarters of people reviewed in a 2015 study on homophobia in Irish sport said that they had witnessed or experienced homophobia. Furthermore, 82% felt as though an openly gay person would be unsafe even as a spectator at a sports event. Homophobia is undoubtedly exacerbated in the sporting industry, and historically media companies have played to the heteronormative hyper-masculine culture prevalent in sporting spheres.
That is until French sporting magazine L’Équipe devoted one of their weekly editions to a discussion of homophobia in sport. The issue featured two male water polo players unabashedly kissing on the front cover under the headline ‘Kiss Whoever You Want’.
The photo is from the film The Shiny Shrimps, released in January of this year. The plot follows an Olympic champion forced to coach a flamboyant group of amateur gay water polo players aiming to qualify for the ‘Gay Games’, as a punishment for making a homophobic statement on TV.
Photographer Roberto Frankenberg “tried several frames and several postures” to illustrate the scene. He added that “beyond the homosexual kiss, its poetry comes from the reimagining of a sporting duel, a gesture of confrontation, which brings a second sense to the reading.”
The issue covered a plethora of topics surrounding the relationship between the LGBT+ community and sport, including the homophobic assault of Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas in 2018 and Justin Fashanu, an openly gay footballer’s suicide at the mere age of 37. Fortunately for some, sexuality actually helps their sporting careers – gay French shot putter and two-time Olympian champion Laurence Manfredi questions if she would have “beaten the French record if I wasn’t gay?”
In a section entitled Homophobia: A season of hate, L’Équipe braves attacking Israel Folau. Folau was once famous for his rugby talent but has risen to notoriety after his announcement that God plans to send gay people to “Hell” in April 2018. A feud has ensued with Rugby Australia, who intend to terminate Folau’s contract on the basis of homophobia.
By rejecting “the stream of abject words, uttered, among others, by a well known Australian rugby player”, L’Équipe have defined themselves as a vigilant ally of the LGBT+ community, unafraid to reject comments and events derogatory to LGBT+ people. A refreshing responsibility to see a sporting magazine take on.
Je ne pensais franchement pas un jour acheter @LeMagLEquipe, mais je suis heureux de leur donner 2,70€ aujourd’hui 🌈
Très belle, et ô combien nécessaire, initiative. Bravo à celles et ceux qui y ont participé 👏🏻 pic.twitter.com/AMUren2X47
— Maxime Bourdeau (@MaximeBourdeau) May 4, 2019
Above: Maxime Bourdeau, head of publishing at Huffington Post comments on how he never thought he’d purchase an issue of the sporting magazine, congratulating L’Équipe on their inclusion of such an important topic.
Although the monumental edition has been largely received with praise and love, a kiosk seller on Place de la République in Paris was not so impressed, refusing to sell a copy to the buyer. The company managing kiosks in Paris, Mediakiosk, was quick to shut down the kiosk, suspend its manager, and launch an enquiry into whether or not he’s guilty of homophobia.
Apart from this rejection of social progress in France, L’Équipe’s coverage of LGBT+ people has promoted inclusivity and is a blatant refusal to succumb to homophobia in an industry that has historically prided itself on macho-culture and heteronormativity.
© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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