The largest ever study of gay athletes in team sports, released on Saturday, finds rampant homophobia in the United States.
The multi-national study called "Out on the Fields" surveyed 9,500 people — including 2,064 lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans — and found that 84 percent said they'd witnessed or experienced homophobia in sports.
Of those queer athletes who experienced it themselves, 29 percent of men and 19 percent of women said they'd been threatened. Of the men, 19 percent said the homophobia came in the form of physical assault, compared with 8 percent of women.
The results of the study, initiated by organizers of rugby's Bingham Cup (named for 9/11 hero Mark Bingham), released Sunday found that safety is an issue at all levels of sports, with 78 percent of respondents saying youth team sports are unsafe for LGB people. Meanwhile, LGB people aren't even safe in the stands, according to 83 percent of American participants who said being in the stands is the most likely place to get targeted.
This being an international study, it compared the United States to other English-speaking countries — the U.K., Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia — and found the U.S. is by far the worst. The report finds Americans are least likely to say LGB people are accepted in sports culture (with a perception rate so negative it's double that of Canada). Americans are much more likely to say homophobia is more common in sports than other parts of society.
While the number of out celebrities grows each year on TV and in film, the number of out pro athletes in the major mens American team leagues can be counted on one hand. Robbie Rogers of the Los Angeles Galaxy is out and still playing Major League Soccer.
At the end of his NBA career, Jason Collins came out and played one season in 2014 before retiring. Michael Sam came out during the NFL draft but never made it further than a practice squad during the regular season before being cut. The NHL has no one it can point to for an example to LGBT players.
A number of pros have come out after leaving the league, and all say there are many others playing now while closeted.