In less than two weeks, two professional footballers have been punished for making homophobic comments on Twitter. On 12 January, Oxford City sacked Lee Steele for making an offensive remark about Gareth Thomas, the openly gay rugby league player. And on 24 January the FA fined Leicester City's Michael Ball for sending a homophobic tweet about the gay Coronation Street actor Anthony Cotton. Oxford City and the FA acted quickly to deal with the players; could it be that the game is finally getting to grips with homophobia?
Football's chronic problem with homophobia goes back decades. In the Nineties it was brought into sharp focus by the experiences of the England's first - and, to date, only - openly gay professional player, Justin Fashanu. After he came out in 1990 he faced years of unchallenged homophobic abuse from other players and managers, and found it hard to find a team willing to sign him. He killed himself in 1998 after being wrongly accused of sexual assault, leaving a suicide note saying he wanted to 'spare his family and friends 'more embarrassment'.
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