THE United Nations’ Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has urged gay soccer players competing in the World Cup in Brazil to use that opportunity to come out to help increase acceptance of gays and lesbians worldwide.

“I encourage players, sports people to declare their sexual orientation without fear,” Pillay told reporters in Geneva on Monday.

“That’s the only way they will find the right to sexual orientation accepted. They are role models, it’s important to send this message to their fans as well.”

She also said it was “a shame, in this day and age”, that people “had to hide who they really are”.

Pillay was addressing a UN Human Rights Council meeting on equality in sports. She also spoke against discrimination on the grounds of race or disability.

Her call for players to come out has prompted a response from Andrew Purchas, the president of the Bingham Cup Sydney gay rugby world tournament to be held in August.

“My view is that it’s a very personal decision, I don’t think any player should feel pressured,” he said.

Purchas added that while Pillay’s comments were positive in that it would initiate discussion, he stressed that the focus needed to be on soccer officials making the sport less homophobic and more inclusive in general.

“I think it would be fantastic if someone did come out, but I don’t think they should feel pressured if they’re not ready yet,” he said.

“I don’t think they should feel they have to be responsible or carry the burden as the flag bearer.”

In April, the heads of Australia’s five major sporting codes signed up to the Bingham Cup-led Anti Homophobia and Inclusion Framework, a world-first of its kind. One of those codes, Football Federal Australia, last week declared that any footballer in the A-League or Socceroos who came out would be treated with “respect and support.”

Should there be a focus on making the sport more inclusive rather than encourage more players to come out? Comment below.

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