Out Soccer Star Zander Murray Tackles Anti-Gay Chants, Speculation

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday March 14, 2023

Zander Murray
Zander Murray  (Source:BBC)

Out Scottish soccer star Zander Murray stars in a new documentary in which he calls for an end to fans' abuse of LGTBQ+ players and online speculation about who's gay.

Murray told the press that in the shooting of the film — titled "Disclosure" Out on the Pitch" — the filmmakers "got footage of fans singing a homophobic chant," British newspaper The Sun recounted.

Added the soccer pro: "There is no doubt we are moving in the right direction and changes are being made, but holy fuck, there is so much work that needs doing."

The doc, "highlighting the issues with homophobia in football across the UK," is the work of BBC One, and was released March 13.

In it, Murray "reveals that the pressure needs to be put on football teams and associations as a whole to force a change," the newspaper recounted, "rather than on gay professional athletes."

A major part of that equation is the fans, who Murray said "shout things and they don't understand, they don't think about the impact their comments could be having on someone in the stands who is struggling with their sexuality."

When it comes to his fellow pros, whether on the pitch or behind the scenes, Murray said, "I have had no negativity from players or backroom staff.

"It is the fans. This is what we need to continue to work with."

Murray "is believed to be the first senior Scottish male soccer player to publicly come out," LGBTQ+ athletics site Outsports noted, and, so far, he's remained the only one. The site recounted how one player who is now part of Saltire Thistle — a gay-inclusive soccer club in Glasgow — related to Murray how "he tried to come out when he was 18 years old, only to recede into the closet after he was shunned."

That player was 30 before, as part of his new team, he felt safe enough to try again. Murray wrote about that player's story for the BBC, in an article that asked, "Why am I the only male Scottish footballer to come out?," where he said that the story "broke my heart, but seeing him kicking about and chatting freely to his new teammates gave me huge hope."

Still, that level of freedom and confidence is, as yet, not widespread enough for players to emerge. Only a handful of gay players have come out, including Australian A-Leaguer Josh Cavallo, English player Jake Daniels, and Czech Republic midfielder Jakub Jankto, and and while they have been embraced by teammates and fans alike, they also face homophobic abuse.

Murray spoke directly to the pressures of being gay in a sport that is seen as punishing to LGBTQ+ athletes.

"I am in an LGBT tight-knit community, and the outing of players is so frowned upon," the Sun quoted the 31-year-old striker as saying. As to

"Whether I know out players or not," Murray added, "I cannot talk about it because they may be struggling."

For that matter, the pro athlete advised, online gossip around who on the pitch might be gay is just another form of harassment: "Speculation online too about who may or not be gay can be really upsetting" to closeted players, he pointed out.

By the same token, Murray said that gay players should not be pressured to come out before they are ready.

"If there is a player who is out to their teammates but not the public — that is fair play to them," Murray added. "You don't have to come out."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.