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“Out on the Fields” is a comprehensive study on homophobia in sports and the first international study of its kind. Conducted by Repucom, one of the largest and most reputable sports marketing firms in the world, the study focused specifically on the issue of homophobia in sports.

The results are in … and they aren’t good.

According to the study, an astounding 84 percent of participants say they either witnessed or experienced homophobia in sports. This includes both straight men and women. The study also found that American gay men were most the most likely to remain in the closet due to fear of discrimination from coaches and officials. One of the more trouble findings is that 78 percent of American youth believe youth sports are an unsafe environment.

Disappointing Findings

Understandably, the study has received national attention and feedback from professional athletes and activists alike. Robbie Roberts, a gay professional soccer player for the LA Galaxy, said he was disappointed in the study’s findings but that he hoped that it would help move things forward in a positive direction.

Dr. Sue Rankin, a former coach from Penn State University, was one of seven members asked to participate as an expert panel advisor to the study.

“As one of the first openly lesbian NCAA coaches in the U.S. in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was important for me personally to see how we have progressed regarding the inclusion of [lesbian and gay] athletes in sports,” she said. “Frankly, we were all surprised by the extent of discrimination that was reported.”

Compared with other countries in the study, the United States ranked the lowest and most poorly on key measures. More than half of all American participants reported they felt as if they were not accepted at all—nearly double that of Canadian participants. Both the United States and the United Kingdom tied for the highest number of lesbian athletes who said they had been bullied playing sports.

Viable Solutions

While the results are extremely disappointing, the overall goal of the study wasn’t just to report statistics. The expert advisors were also on hand to provide viable solutions and recommendations moving forward, such as implementing a zero tolerance policy in all levels of sports and starting early in schools by having open discussions between coaches, students and parents about homophobia. The panel also believes that more professional athletes need to come out of the closet in order to set a precedent.

Whatever the answers may be, one thing is for certain—the LGBT community still has a long way to go in order to get to a level playing field.

If you’re curious about the study and would like some more information, please visit: www.outonthefields.com