So far, around 60 players from the men’s professional tennis tour have taken part in an anonymous online survey into LGBTQ issues that ATP CEO Massimo Calvelli calls part of a “larger initiative” to to create “an environment for players and staff that is inclusive, that is diverse and that is very safe and welcoming.
“Statistically it’s a little unusual that you don’t have players on the ATP Tour who are openly gay. We thought, in today’s world, this is one area where it’s worth taking a proactive approach – and what better way to do it than trying to get a feel for where we are. we’re in today, ”Calvelli said in a video interview with The Associated Press this week. “Are there any obstacles? Is there something in terms of culture, behaviors, attitudes that put people in a position where they are not comfortable being open? “
A link to more than 30 questions was emailed to around 500 singles and 250 doubles players in August, and the tour plans to close the investigation in late September, the ATP spokesperson said, Mark Epps.
The tour also sought volunteers for one-on-one interviews.
The survey was created after ATP contacted Pride Sports, a UK-based group whose website says it works “to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sport and improve access to sport for LGBT + people.”
Pride Sports enlisted researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia to help develop the survey.
“We have never had a circumstance where a sport has approached us,” said Erik Denison, behavioral science researcher at Monash. “It’s always the other way around, when the LGBT community has taken up sport and said, ‘You have to do something about this problem’ and (sport has been)… dragged along on the journey. Or sport has a crisis.
His description of the ATP approach: “Hey, we want to do more than just set up rainbows. We actually want to figure out what needs to be done to be meaningful and lead to change. “
“I don’t think anyone denies that homophobia is a problem in tennis, like it is in any sport,” Denison said.
Rarely do male athletes on U.S. professional teams come out publicly while they are active. In June, the defensive end of the Las Vegas Raiders Carl Nassib became the first NFL player do this. No active NHL player has, although one Nashville Predators prospect done in July.
NBA player Jason Collins came out shortly after that league’s 2013 season ended, then played the following year before retiring. Billy Bean came out after retiring as a baseball player; he now works for Major League Baseball as a vice president and ambassador for inclusion.
Denison said the ATP investigation itself can help shift the culture, as it gets players to consider topics they might not otherwise have.
“I don’t know how many straight guys wake up,” he said, “and, while they’re brushing their teeth, think, ‘I wonder if gays are okay at tennis?’”
The ATP questionnaire includes links to research from the International Olympic Committee and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine which, according to the survey, “found that everyone’s mental health and athletic performance can be negatively affected if a culture sport is not welcoming to homosexuals and bisexuals. . “
– Are you gay, bisexual, uncertain / other? … If you identify with one of the above, it will be extremely helpful to learn more about your experiences.
—How many ACTIVE professional male tennis players do you personally know who are gay?
—How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements: Jokes about other people’s race or ethnicity are normal in MALE tennis. … Gay jokes are normal in MEN tennis. … Jokes about women are normal in MALE tennis. … Sexuality is not important in MALE tennis. Gay people should keep this private. … Homophobia is a problem in professional men’s tennis.
—Why do you think a player who turns out to be gay would earn more, less or that much money from sponsors?
– What percentage of professional tennis players would be uncomfortable or reject a gay tennis player? Please be honest.
Other topics included which factors most contribute to the absence of openly gay professional male tennis players, whether the respondent agrees with ATP’s desire to ‘combat homophobia in sport’ and he “would publicly support a gay or bisexual tennis player.”
Once the results are collected, Denison said, Monash will forward the statistical analysis to Pride Sports, which will offer suggestions to ATP for programs it could adopt.
“We have to be open-minded,” Calvelli said of the tour. “Whatever recommendations are, we have to take them seriously. “
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