Male Tennis Players Asked About LGBTQ Attitudes, Environment


Around 60 players from the men’s professional tennis tour have so far taken part in an anonymous online survey about LGBTQ issues that ATP CEO Massimo Calvelli calls part of a “wider initiative” aimed at create “an environment for players and staff that is inclusive, that is diverse and very safe and welcoming.”

“Statistically it’s a bit unusual that there aren’t any players on the ATP Tour who are openly gay. We thought that in today’s world that’s an area where there’s worth taking a proactive approach — and what better way to do that than trying to get a sense of where we are today,” Calvelli said in a video interview with The Associated Press. “Are there barriers? Is there something in terms of culture, behaviors, attitudes that puts people in a position where they’re not comfortable be open?”

A link to more than 30 questions was emailed to around 500 singles players and 250 doubles players in August, and the tour plans to close the survey at the end of September, the ATP spokesperson said. , Mark Epps.

The tour also sought volunteers for individual interviews.

The survey was created after the ATP contacted Pride Sports, a UK-based group whose website says it works “to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sport and improve access to sport for LGBT+ people”.

Pride Sports brought in researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia to help develop the survey.

“We’ve never had a circumstance where a sport approached us,” said Erik Denison, a behavioral science researcher at Monash. “It’s always the other way around, where either the LGBT community has approached the sport and said, ‘You’ve got to do something about this’ and (the sport has been)… dragged into the journey Or the sport is in crisis.

His description of the ATP approach: “Hey, we want to do more than just put on rainbows. We really want to figure out what to do that will be meaningful and result in change. »

“I don’t think anyone is denying that homophobia is a problem in tennis, as it is in any sport,” Denison said.

It is rare for male athletes on US professional teams to come out publicly while active. In June, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the NFL’s first player do this. No active NHL player has, although a Nashville Predators prospect done in July.

NBA player Jason Collins exited shortly after that league’s season ended in 2013, then played the following year before retiring. Billy Bean came out after retiring as a baseball player; he now works for Major League Baseball as Vice President and Inclusion Ambassador.

Denison said the ATP survey itself can help change the culture because it gets players to consider topics they otherwise wouldn’t.

“I don’t know how many straight people wake up,” he said, “and, while brushing their teeth, think, ‘I wonder if gay people are okay in tennis? “”

The ATP questionnaire includes links to research from the International Olympic Committee and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine which, according to the survey, “found that everyone’s mental health and sports performance can be negatively affected. if a sports culture is not welcoming to gay and bisexual people.”

Excerpts from the survey:

—Are you gay, bisexual, undecided/other? … If you identify as one of the people above, it will be extremely helpful to know more about your experiences.

—How many ACTIVE professional male tennis players do you personally know who are gay?

— To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements? Jokes about the race or ethnicity of others are normal in MEN’S tennis. … Gay jokes are normal in MEN’S tennis. … Jokes about women are normal in MEN’s tennis. … Sexuality is not important in MEN’S tennis. Gay people should keep this private. … Homophobia is a problem in professional men’s tennis.

—Why do you think a player who comes out as gay would make more, less, or the same money from sponsors?

—What percentage of professional tennis players would feel uncomfortable with or reject a gay tennis player? Please be honest.

Other topics covered include which factors contribute most to the lack of openly gay active professional tennis players, whether the respondent agrees with the ATP’s desire to “combat homophobia in sport” and whether he would “publicly support a gay or bisexual tennis player.”

Once the results are collected, Denison said, Monash will forward the statistical analysis to Pride Sports, which will offer suggestions to the ATP for programs it might adopt.

“We have to be open-minded,” Calvelli said of the tour. “Whatever the recommendations, we have to take them seriously.”


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