Verbally abusing someone because of his race is not done, says Karin Blankenstein. “But homosexuals still have to cope with being abused.” As if that’s normal. Blankenstein fights for gay acceptance in sports in The Netherlands. I interviewed her during a meeting at The Hague’s Referee Association a few years ago. This issue is still very relevant these days. How is the situation for homosexuals in sports?
Acceptance is difficult
Karin Blankenstein is the founder of the John Blankenstein Foundation, called after her brother, a homosexual professional referee in football who died in 2006. The battle for gay acceptance in sports is difficult. She made an action plan to gain equal rights for everyone in cooperation with Dutch football association KNVB and she has sent it to all football clubs. “I got no response”, she says and stresses that the abuse is a big problem. “Fifty percent of the homosexual boys think about suicide during puberty. People should give that a moment of thought. They need to become thoughtful about what it means when you verbally abuse someone because of his sexual preferences.”
And what can referees do about it? “I hear players using the word ‘gay’ all the time on the football pitches. As a referee you need to say to players that it’s inappropriate.” Verbally abusing someone because of his race is not done, she adds. “But homosexuals need to cope with being abused.” John Blankenstein was openly gay. Likewise Jeroen Sanders, who was a referee and is AR in Dutch professional football. “But there’s a veil of secrecy on homosexuality amongst football players”. The German player Thomas Hitzlsperger told he was gay only after he retired. “He got more than 1000 interview requests, because this was so unique.”
Fans reactions on homosexuals in sports
Many football fans are not open for homosexuality according to Blankenstein. “They would love to party on Friday night with gay pop stars on stage in a big football stadium. But if a gay attacker would play in the same stadium the next weekend, they’ll boo at him.” There’s so much to gain for homosexuals in sports. Blankenstein hopes it starts with little things like people taking action when people verbally abuse gays and when football and referee clubs put gay acceptance in their code of conduct. “It’s important that as little people as possible quit with sports or refereeing because of their sexual preferences”.