Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has pledged to call out homophobia in football so that his brother Ollie, who is gay, can “come to games without having to fear abuse.”
The 25-year-old sports star stated that he’s tired of “biting [his] tongue” over homophobic comments, and that it’s time to make football “a safe and welcoming place for everyone”.
In an article for The Players’ Tribune, Ramsdale explained that while he’s never publicly discussed his brother’s sexuality, he had decided to address homophobia in the sport due to “everything going on in football right now”.
Speaking about his brother Oliver, a performer in the West End, Ramsdale declared that his sibling was the “brave one” in the family – not just for his career choice, but for being open about his sexuality.
“My brother is gay, and he’s lived his life in an open and authentic way since he went off to school. I’m so proud to say he’s my brother,” he wrote.
“Over the years, I’ve probably bit my tongue a few too many times – both in dressing rooms and on social media – whenever I hear homophobic comments or stupid things being said. And I think maybe my brother has done the same, thinking it would make my life easier. Well, all that ends today.”
He added that people may tell him to “stick to football” and not talk about LGBTQ+ issues, but “this is about football. Football is for everyone”.
Later in the article, Aaron Ramsdale explained that the past year had been an “emotional rollercoaster” after his wife went through a miscarriage during a flight after a holiday.
“There’s really no way that I can describe the pain of that six-hour flight back to London, even now. I just want people out there to know that they’re not alone if they’re going through it themselves,” he said.
He praised Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta for going “above and beyond to make sure me and my family were okay”, adding that his wife is pregnant again.
“He was fantastic about everything. Even in the middle of the title race, with so much pressure on the club, he asked me if I needed some time off to deal with everything,” he said.
Ramsdale explained that he wrote the article to cut through the “negativity and toxicity” in football and speak out against abusive messages his teammates receive.
“After I publish this letter, as sad as it is to say, I know that I will receive messages about my wife, and about my brother. Other players receive even worse messages, especially my Black teammates. For some reason, the social media companies don’t seem to have any interest in stopping it,” he wrote.
“But for me, it’s not about stopping it. It’s not about the trolls. I know I can’t reach them. For me, it’s simply about standing up for what’s right.
“I want this game I love to be a safe and welcoming place for everyone. I want my brother, Ollie – or anyone of any sexuality, race or religion – to come to games without having to fear abuse.”
Ramsdale’s article comes as LGBTQ+ football groups this year called for action after a spike in “abusive” homophobic chants at matches.
Football v Homophobia said in a January statement, referencing the offensive “Chelsea rent boy” chant: “The number of incidents; the clearly abusive, hurtful and damaging nature of them, and their vocal intensity within stadiums, should be a cause for concern for the entire footballing community.”
It added that football authorities and clubs should “make tackling homophobia and wider LGBTIQ-phobia a priority, to prevent a spread of the abuse we have seen”.
Meanwhile, England star Jordan Henderson – who has long demonstrated LGBTQ+ allyship both on and off the pitch – has been criticised after signing a multi-million pound deal to join a professional football team in Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is punishable by death.