Why Footballer Matt Jarvis Came Out in Shirtless Support of Gay Players

By: Brandon Voss

Showing off his big support and little shorts on the February cover of Attitude, British footballer Matt Jarvis tells the U.K. gay magazine that gay football players should finally feel comfortable enough to come out.

"It's everyday life," says Jarvis, who is straight and married to a woman. "It's not something that's going to be a shock. I'm sure there are many footballers who are gay, but when they decide to actually come out and say it, it is a different story. I'm sure it's one that they've thought about many times. But it's a hard thing for them to do."

The Guardian reports that the only major openly gay footballer was Justin Fashanu, who came out in 1990 but suffered "extended abuse after coming out" and committed suicide eight years later. Even so, Jarvis insists that his sport is now ready to be accepting and tolerant of an openly gay player.

"There'd be support everywhere within the football community," he continues. "Whether it be players, fans or within the [Professional Footballers Association]. There would definitely be groups of people who would be supportive and help them through it."

His words inspire hope, but it's somewhat telling that Jarvis is only the third footballer to agree to appear on the cover of the popular gay magazine. Attitude editor Matthew Todd explains how the interview and photo shoot came to be in a post on the popular football blog West Ham Till I Die:

We’re constantly talking to lots of different people about being potential cover stars or being featured in the magazine and this includes footballers and other sports stars. Attitude has been published since 1994 and although we’ve had lots of sports stars happy to be on the cover like Ben Cohen, James Anderson, Greg Rutherford and most recently Paralympian Jonnie Peacock, footballers have always been hard to get. David Beckham became the first one to appear on the cover in 2002 and then Freddie Ljungberg in 2006 but none since then.

I know Matt’s publicist and speak to her often and we asked Matt if he would come and present an award at our inaugural Attitude Awards last October. He said yes and he and his wife came along and had a great evening mixing with Ian McKellen, Clare Balding, McFly, Gary Barlow and lots of other celebs. He was clearly a decent guy so we suggested doing this cover.

He didn’t need any convincing at all and jumped at the chance. I think he relished the opportunity to show that lots of different people get stereotyped, including footballer and that despite the image, he and lots of his fellow players are completely at ease with gay people, it isn’t an issue for them and that an openly gay player would be welcomed in the game. He feels that the problem might come from the supporters but not from the industry itself, but that even that is changing.

I do think that perhaps there is more homophobia from the stands than he thinks, but it’s great that he feels happy to speak up about it. It’s really time for the game to just be relaxed about gay people. I know so many gay men who are incredibly passionate about football, and clubs are losing out from the fact that players being in the closet really puts pressure on them. If they were able to be themselves and come out and it wasn’t an issue to people, it would improve their performance, no doubt about it.