Iker Casillas and Carles Puyol, two former professional soccer players in Spain, are coming under attack for a couple of tweets joking about the two of them being gay. The two players won the World Cup together in 2010.
The now-deleted banter started with a tweet from Casillas, saying in Spanish: “I hope I’ll be respected: I’m gay.”
Puyol followed up with a tweet including a couple emojis: “It’s time to tell them about us.”
Casillas is now claiming that his Twitter feed was hacked, and that’s how the message got tweeted. Puyol, for his part, called it a “clumsy joke.” Bingo.
I suppose there’s a 1% chance that’s true. It is in the universe of possibility.
Either way, someone thought it was funny to joke about a world-class soccer player coming out, and Puyol thought it was funny to play into it.
Assuming these two former pro soccer players did tweet this engagement, I’m having a hard time marching on FIFA headquarters over this one.
To be sure, some gay people — including those in soccer — are understandably unhappy. Josh Cavallo, who is the first top-tier pro soccer player in Australia to come out as gay, wasn’t having it:
@IkerCasillas and @Carles5puyol joking and making fun out of coming out in football is disappointing. It’s a difficult journey that any LGBTQ+ ppl have to go through. To see my role models and legends of the game make fun out of coming out and my community is beyond disrespectful pic.twitter.com/Yp88aQyyTV
— Josh Cavallo (@JoshuaCavallo) October 9, 2022
To Cavallo’s point, the tweets do in some way make light of the coming-out process. In sports, that process can be particularly tortured, with so few publicly out gay and bi men in men’s sports.
This weird episode — former pro athletes claiming on Twitter to be gay then admitting it’s not true — undeniably can set off a chain of emotions, particularly for LGBT people. I can only imagine a gay youth seeing those tweets as a source of inspiration, only to have Lucy pull the football away from them.
If either of these athletes were gay and came out, it would shift how some people see gay men in sports.
At the same time, this isn’t anywhere near the worst anti-gay message we’ve seen, in or out of sports.
Years ago, Outsports rated these kinds of incidents on a “Rocker scale,” in honor of Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker saying some crazy stuff about gays and immigrants.
When Tim Hardaway told Dan LeBetard “I hate gay people,” that was a 10 on the scale.
Cucho Hernandez and Santiago Sosa recently using gay slurs in a match — then getting suspended by Major League Soccer — is probably about 6 Rockers.
This is a 1.
Adding to the angst about the controversy is the timing. The World Cup starts in about six weeks. It’s being hosted in Qatar, where gay people can be imprisoned or even put to death for being gay.
Jokes about being gay — from two former World Cup players — are a bit tone deaf.
I’ll give Casillas credit for this: In his “I didn’t do it” tweet, he at least acknowledged that members of the LGBT community are the people most likely to have an issue with this.
My best guess is that this was a stupid joke that both players regret. Hopefully their mistake brings attention to LGBT rights in Qatar as the country hosts the World Cup while they incarcerate and assault people for being gay.
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