Former NBA star John Amaechi has criticised the "neanderthal" attitude of FIFA in light of Thomas Hitzlsperger revealing he is gay, claiming Sepp Blatter "couldn't have a job anywhere else."
As reported by James Nursey of the Mirror, Amaechi—who also revealed he is gay upon retiring—suggests many footballers won't reveal they are gay until their playing days are over due to the creation of a "toxic" environment by Blatter and his associates:
The truth is the people who run football are the ones creating this environment. The fans follow the implicit lack of breadth when it comes to issues of difference from the top.
Blatter couldn't have a job anywhere else. In an equivalent corporate environment he would be out in a day. Neanderthals seem to be only able to hang on to power in sport.
Former Leeds player Robbie Rogers revealed his sexuality in February 2013, but he immediately retired at the age of 25 after coming out, per David Kent of the Daily Mail.
Although he is now playing for the LA Galaxy, Rogers insists he needed to step away from the game after his announcement was made, saying it is "impossible to come out" in football, as reported by Donald McRae of The Guardian.
Rogers was just the second high-profile footballer to reveal his sexuality. Justin Fashanu told the press he was gay in 1990. In 1998, Fashanu committed suicide at the age of 37.
Former Aston Villa and Everton midfielder Hitzlsperger, who played 52 times for Germany, is the highest-profile footballer to speak honestly about being gay.
The aforementioned examples of those before him highlight how primitive attitudes in football can be, something FIFA can put right, according to Amaechi, per Nursey's report:
They [FIFA] could sort it out in two years, but it is way behind. It takes actions, not just pretty posters. Until they stab in the heart the ignorance, mythology and nonsense which is around bigotry then nothing will change.
They are loathe to do that, because it will involve some self-examination [which] they are not comfortable with. They refuse to hire people who will educate and challenge them.
Hitzlsperger rightfully received droves of support on Twitter after coming out, led by U.K. prime minister David Cameron:
As an #AVFC fan, I've always admired what Thomas Hitzlsperger did on the pitch - but I admire him even more today. A brave & important move.— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) January 8, 2014
Congratulations to Thomas Hitzlsperger on bravely being the first player to have played in the PL to 'come out' http://t.co/9boXWNpnFZ— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 8, 2014
Brave and right decision. Respect, Thomas Hitzlsperger. His outing is a important sign in our time. pic.twitter.com/c69Oml2Ocp— Lukas-Podolski.com (@Podolski10) January 8, 2014
Amaechi's comments, combined with Hitzlsperger's honesty, certainly intensify the debate around homosexuality in football.
Hopefully, more gay footballers will find the strength and support to reveal their sexual preference—without fear of backlash.