Soccer Great David Beckham: Historically Homophobic Sport Has Improved; Still Has Far to Go

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday May 27, 2022

David Beckham
David Beckham  (Source:AP Photo/Abraham Caro Marin)

English soccer great David Beckham, who positions himself as an LGBTQ+ ally despite serving as a brand ambassador for homophobic nation Qatar, says the sport is getting less homophobic, UK newspaper the Evening Standard reported.

Reacting to 17-year-old British soccer pro Jake Daniels' recent coming out, Beckham said, "It's a shame that when someone does come out that it's such a strange thing. I've always felt that way about when someone does come out... it shouldn't be."

Beckham took note of a mathematically obvious truth: "At the end of the day there will be a huge amount of gay people in sports," and posed the question, "why should they be any different from anyone else?"

The 47-year-old suggested that things are getting better for gay soccer players despite a history of homophobia. Beckham referenced his own long and storied career, telling publication The Londoner's Diary, "I played for 22 years, I saw a lot of racism and homophobia," but adding that, in his opinion, attitudes in the sport have "changed."

Beckham raised eyebrows last year when he signed on to be the face of tourism, culture, and soccer in Qatar, even though the country is virulently anti-gay. Reports noted that the deal Beckham signed with Qatar rewards him to the tune of £15 million (just shy of $19 million) per year for an agreed-upon term of 10 years.

Qatar is hosting this year's World Cup — a decision made by world sports body FIFA in 2010 that, together with FIFA handing Russia, another virulently anti-LGBTQ+ nation, the World Cup for 2018, prompted speculation about improper vote buying. As Bloomberg reported, "Two members of the 24-man FIFA executive committee that cast votes for World Cup hosts were suspended before the 2010 ballot after being filmed offering votes for cash.")

Daniels' coming out was hailed by Australian soccer star Josh Cavallo, who, until Daniels, was the world's only openly gay active top-flight player.

Declaring himself "very proud" of Daniels' "bravery," Cavallo said, "It's a wonderful feeling knowing that my story has helped guide Jake to be his true self."

But Cavallo has also said that he would feel "scared" of playing in Qatar if he were chosen for Australia's national team in the World Cup, given Qatar's penalties against gay people, which include flogging, prison sentences, and — in theory, at least — the death penalty.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.