German Soccer Star: Gay Athletes Should Stay in the Closet

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Friday September 13, 2013

A former German soccer goalkeeper has made headlines this week after he encouraged gay athletes to not come out of the closet, the German news site the Local reports.

Soccer legend Oliver Kahn, 44, told Gala magazine that pro-athletes who come out could damage their career and advised them to keep their sexual orientation a secret. He added that being gay is no longer a "big deal" in German culture but said it is "na´ve" for a player to think coming out would not hurt their career.

"It may sound sad, but I wouldn't advise him to come out," Kahn said. "The atmosphere is heated. There are rivalries, which can lead people to do nasty things. On top of that, how will it go down with sponsors? What will it mean for your career? The situation is more difficult than it appears at first glance."

The athlete went on to say that an out soccer player would be subject to taunts from opposing fans during games.

Kahn's remarks come a year after Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel urged for an anonymous soccer player to come out of the closet after he gave an interview in a German magazine about his sexuality.

"You need not fear," she said. "I am of the opinion that everyone who has the strength and courage [to come out] should know that we live in a state where he essentially does not have to be fearful. That is my political statement."

In 2011, Philipp Lahm, the captain of a German soccer team, made similar comments to Kahn's remarks, when he warned in his memoir that gay players should not come out because they will be targets of anti-gay abuse from fans.

"I would not advise any gay professional footballer to come out," wrote Lahm. "I would fear that he could end up like Justin Fashanu who after he outed himself was driven into such a corner that he ended up committing suicide."