May 9, 2015 / 10:04 AM / 2 years ago

U.S. sports rank most homophobic among six English-speaking countries: survey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Homophobia in sports is worse in the United States than in other English-speaking countries and globally is more acute in team sports than other parts of society, according to a survey released on Saturday.

The "Out on the Fields" study conducted by the sports and entertainment market research firm Repucom found homophobia is common in athletics in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Ireland, with gay and lesbian athletes often hearing slurs from teammates while spectators encounter similar language in the stands.

The report, which focuses on amateur athletics, comes out a year after Michael Sam became the first openly gay player drafted by a National Football League team, although he was later cut.

The study, billed as the first international report of its kind, points to the stubborn persistence of homophobia in sports, even as other sectors of society such as the military take steps to be more inclusive toward gays and lesbians.

America ranked worst among the countries surveyed on several measures, with 54 percent of participants saying lesbian, gay and bisexual people in sports were accepted only slightly or not at all.

Globally, 62 percent of all respondents said homophobia was more common in team sports than other parts of society.

"If we believe sports participation is important, then we need to create a climate where everyone can participate," said Pat Griffin, professor emerita of social justice education at the University of Massachusetts, who reviewed the study's methods and findings.

Susan Rankin, a retired education professor at Pennsylvania State University, who also reviewed the findings, said it remained unclear why homophobia was more prevalent in the United States than other countries.

The report found only 29 percent of respondents in Canada said gays and lesbians encountered little or no acceptance in sports, and the country ranked as the least homophobic sports culture among the six countries examined.

Most of the online survey's nearly 9,500 respondents are gay or lesbian, but about 2,500 heterosexuals also took part. Academics from six universities reviewed the study.

Robbie Rogers, an openly gay player with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, said in an email he has encountered similar attitudes in the United States as in Europe.

"I think when you hear homophobic chants or slurs in stadiums, the people behind that aren't always homophobic but just part of a culture that is all about the 'pack,'" he said.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Diane Craft

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