Neil Francis played for the Irish national rugby team from 1987–1996, which, let’s face it, was still the Stone Age with regard to openly gay people in professional sports. Now he would likely call himself a journalist, but with such a loose connection with fact, that claim would seem a might tenuous.
“You do a survey of the hair-dressing industry and find out how many heterosexuals work in that,” Francis said. “Professional sport, by its very nature, doesn’t promote [homosexuality]. There are a wide range of people who are homosexual, and… the [sporting] environment… isn’t something that they’re interested in.
“How many homosexual men play professional sport? I would suspect that nowhere near 10 percent. I would say in the smaller margin of 1 percent
“What are their interests? I mean, if you’ve ever sat down with homosexual people, and asked them what their interests are, very often they have no interest in any kind of sport. That’s my experience from sitting down with them. I’ve done it on a regular basis.” Francis helpfully added, “I don’t have an interest in ballet.”
But Francis has had to backtrack, apologizing for his comments.
He accepted an offer from the Today FM show The Last Word along with Welsh gay referee Nigel Owens, who came out in 2007. Francis said, “Listening to what I said last night... okay on reflection, I said the wrong things and some of the things I said were extremely clumsy. In this instance and on reflection I would like to withdraw those comments and apologize profusely and unreservedly on any issue that might have served with anybody who heard them or who felt offence with what I said.”
Regardless, sports fans do have an interest in gay people playing sports. Michael Sam, a gay man who likes sports, was greeted with a standing ovation at the University of Missouri recently, when he and his team accepted the 2014 Cotton Bowl Championship Trophy at halftime of the Mizzou vs Tennessee basketball game.