Tom Daley: will bravery inspire gay footballers to come out?
Diver is most high-profile British sportsman to come out, and could persuade others to follow suit
TOM DALEY'S announcement that he is in a relationship with another man is being heralded as a watershed moment for British sport, with hopes that the largely positive reaction to the news will encourage other sportsmen and women to follow suit and reveal their true sexuality.
The 19-year-old diver told the world that he was seeing another man in a YouTube video that he released yesterday, prompting a welter of comment.
"Daley is by far the most prominent British sportsman ever to come out," says Jim White in the Daily Telegraph. "That gives his revelation real resonance. This is something that matters because it might make a difference.
"The question now is whether his public bravery will inspire others to follow his lead," he adds. But there must be others out there because "the miniscule number of out British sportsmen is a statistical absurdity", while the pressure of living a "public lie" must also take its toll on their performance levels.
But coming out remains a huge decision, and that is why "Daley's boldness matters", according to Matt Dickinson in The Times.
He knows of at least one Premier League footballer who has decided against going public with his sexuality. "The backdrop for a professional sportsman is so unforgiving, the intolerance often so cruel, that coming out still feels impossible to many," he explains. "The significance of the Daley story and the public warmth that has flowed is that it helps us all to believe that, even in football, coming out might not be such an ordeal."
One sporting figure who has come out is rugby referee Nigel Owens and, writing in The Guardian, he says Daley's declaration "will help enormously to change attitudes".
Even so, he says the biggest breakthrough is yet to come. "The real shift will come when a high-profile footballer comes out, but Tom's decision will have made that more rather than less likely."
Another out sportsman, Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas tells the Telegraph that Daley "will come to look back on Monday as the best day of his life". And he says the announcement will have repercussions beyond the world of sport.
"When you are a successful sportsperson, you have so much influence. Even politicians and lawmakers do not have the same ability to inspire, or to change behaviour," he says. "There are few celebrities in such a good position to touch people's lives. And if a high-profile person can do this, it will give strength to many others who are facing the same dilemma."
Not everyone has heralded Daley. Writing in gay newspaper Pink News, Sam Bannister says he was saddened by the fact that many within the LGBT community reacted "with disdain" to the news.
Being gay is not a big deal and the announcement was not newsworthy, they said. But "the LGBT community did not spend the last few decades getting beaten up, attacked, spat on, and killed, just so we could sneer at other guys for coming out," argues Bannister.
"It will be of great comfort to young LGBT kids who see this shining example and realise there is nothing wrong with who they are." ·