During a match between Team Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and Team Italy’s Fabio Fognini on July 29, at the recent Olympic Games, Fognini reportedly used anti-gay slurs on the court. He blamed the heat for his transgression.
Sporting arenas have notoriously been spaces where homophobic sledging thrives. It is not uncommon to hear reports of problematic terminology being used during high-stakes matches between top athletes, but recently athletes and public figures are being held accountable for their words.
Fognini was heard making anti-gay slurs during the match and has since reached out with an apology. The 34-year-old player uploaded an Instagram story with an apology saying, “In today’s match I used a really stupid expression towards myself. Obviously I didn’t want to offend anyone’s sensibilities. I love the LGBT community and I apologise for the nonsense that came out of me.”
Fognini’s latest match against Jan Lennard-Struff on August 9 attracted attention as the Italian player sported rainbow wristbands and a rainbow headband, reports Outsports. Many attribute this as Fognini’s repentance for his comments, or an alleged attempt to win back the public following his comments.
Though this behaviour is not rare in sports, the responses to problematic behaviours have shifted over time. With public scrutiny, many athletes have become more socially conscious and have began to demonstrate solidarity with the queer community.
In a report written by Sky News, English cricket captain Joe Root recently told West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel that there was “nothing wrong with being gay” during a test match.
Gabriel had allegedly said something that was taken as homophobic sledging, a term used in cricket to define the verbal intimidation of players to shake their resolve. Root’s reaction was praised by the other players and the public.
In another case, the San Diego Loyal soccer team forfeited a game and their chance at the play-offs after an opposing player allegedly used a homophobic term against Collin Martin who is the only out gay player in the league, reports Out.
According to The Race, Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel defied dress-code instructions at the Hungarian Grand Prix by wearing a rainbow shirt and face mask in supposed solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community. Although Vettel was reprimanded for the attire, he says it hasn’t phased him. “They can do whatever they want to me I don’t care, I would do it again,” he said.
These examples demonstrate the evolving nature of sports. Athletes like Fognini are discovering that homophobia no longer has a place in the game.