Rugby pundit Neil Francis has denied he was stereotyping or generalising when he claimed that up to 90% of gay men had no interest or involvement in sport.
He told Newstalk’s Off the Ball that if 10% of the population was gay, he reckoned less than 1% of professional sportsmen were.
This was, said Francis, because the environment “isn’t something they [homosexual men] are very interested in”.
Presenter Joe Molloy suggested that such a sweeping statement, based on nothing but anecdotal experience of between 50 to 100 people, was offensive and potentially homophobic.
However, Francis said he did not believe he was generalising by expressing his view about the personal interests of significant minority of society.
To explain his position, he attempted to inversely correlate the number of gay men in sport by suggesting heterosexual men tended not to work in hairdressing.
“If you have ever sat down with homosexual people and asked them what their interests are, very often they have no interest in any kind of sport,” said Francis.
“That is my experience of sitting down with them.”
He said, based on his experience of speaking to gay people in social settings, they had no interest in hearing him talk about sport or his rugby career, which ended 18 years ago. He suggested gay men are more likely to work in hairdressing.
He said the decision by American football college player Michael Sam to come out was a career move — despite the fact that the US media was pursuing rumours of Sam’s sexuality as he entered the draft — the NFL recruitment process.
Molloy suggested Francis’s attitude and continued use of “they” to refer to gay men could be part of the reason why sportspeople are disinclined to come out.
The presenter said the immediate reaction of listeners was negative towards Francis. This was echoed on Twitter, with angry outbursts against him.
Francis also said he had been turned off the Winter Olympics because of the high-profile discussion on sexuality, which has focused on Russia’s draconian treatment of gay people.
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