Tom Daley’s recent viral announcement has arguably proved a game-changer with regard to homosexuality in sport.
The 19 year old British diver introduced his online message by saying, “in an ideal world I wouldn’t be doing this video, because it shouldn’t matter.” His views are understandable; in the 21st century, sexual identity should not be used to draw divisions between sportsmen, yet in recent times it has.
Just two years ago, cyclist Graeme Obree was torn by the same predicament as Daley, a decision that he feels has cost him sponsorship deals and respect from international companies. This is particularly the case in Eastern Europe where Obree sees that “there is pressure…to not sponsor gay people.” The cyclist’s comments are admittedly unsettling, yet two years later reactions to Daley’s announcement seem to illustrate that attitudes to homosexuality in sport have generally progressed.
Daley’s video, at the time of writing, holds over five million views plus thousands of supportive comments. The positive response to the diver’s announcement was such that he tweeted, “I’d just like to say a massive thanks for all the support yesterday, it was overwhelming.”
The British icon has also received a large amount of support from celebrities via social media including Stephen Fry who tweeted, “I opened the second door of my advent calendar and Tom Daley came out. Seriously @TomDaley1994 congratulations. So happy for you.”
Although the news has been classed as Daley ‘coming out’, he is not, in fact, ‘gay’ as many reports have suggested. He made the distinction by professing, “of course I still fancy girls but right now I’m dating a guy and I couldn’t be happier,” implying that he is instead bisexual. Yet, regardless of exact orientation, the delivery of such news is a milestone for sport.
There has been an increasing amount of popular speculation about the readiness of the sporting world for a LGBT icon and Tom Daley could become this role model, despite the 2012 bronze medalist perhaps not realising the weight of his action.
His total honesty and complete lack of remorse in the video message seem to have won the hearts of both doubters and fans alike; if anything, this shows how he has become an independent minded, thoughtful character who could successfully deter homophobic attitudes in modern society and sport.
Whether the newfound attention on Daley will affect his sporting performance remains to be seen, but the courage he has displayed in revealing his relationship to the world implies that he is more than capable of being a sporting role model for all.
There is a readiness in the sporting world for a LGBT icon and Tom Daley could perhaps become this role model
Social media has played an instrumental role in showing the many positive and supportive reactions to Daley. Since the message ‘Tom Daley’ has been trending on Twitter as many discuss the impact of his announcement, which is likely to positively change attitudes towards homosexuality in sport.
Moreover, in an age of overbearing press and poaching paparazzi, Daley should be applauded for revealing his sexuality in exactly his own words, rather than allowing rumours and speculation to build up and force a response.
Despite this, it isn’t right that the exceptional talent of one of our finest young sportsmen is overshadowed by his sexuality. The news is socially significant, but won’t alter his sporting ability.
Daley is set to compete in the upcoming Glasgow Commonwealth games and also remains hopeful of a gold medal in the Brazilian Olympic Games in two and a half years time for both the synchronised and 10m singles categories.
Whilst the future performance of this promising young sportsman remains unknown, there is no doubt that, whatever his sexual identity, we should all support him as both a British athlete and indomitable character.