Clearly at pains to find something to write about (I know the pain of that Martin, but it’s a tad odd considering I think you’re limited to one column a day), Martin Samuel chose to bait Joey Barton. He writes in the Daily Mail:

The gay pressure group, Stonewall, has called again for football to tackle its ‘culture of fear’, while Anders Lindegaard, the Manchester United goalkeeper, has said that football needs a ‘gay hero’.
So here’s a thought. Joey Barton continues his quest for intellectual and social respectability. Why not come out as gay?

I wouldn’t have necessarily written that Samuel is a horrible person in the past, but this article provides compelling evidence. You’re (hopefully) going to be reading a lot about this today, so I want to add my two cents.

First, this article is not offensive because it “picks on” Barton, and nor is it offensive because it presumes Barton is gay. There is nothing wrong with being gay, so I get a little wary of those who go into conniption fits when they’re “accused” of being something they’re patently not.

This article is offensive because of the thinly-coded set of ideological “winks” to his Mail audience. In case they’re unclear, here they are.

First, Samuel identifies Stonewall as a gay “pressure” group and not an “advocacy” group, the presumption being that they’re forcing their agenda on football somehow. This was, of course, deliberate.

Then we have Samuel’s opening sentences:

“Could just one footballer please come out and be gay, so everybody can be really cool about it and the sport can get on with its life? Just one, it’s not much to ask surely? Football is beginning to sound a little desperate with its pleading.”

It’s hard to know to what Samuel is referring when he writes that “football” is desperate for a gay footballer to come out. First, one has, in former MLS regular David Testo. So, well done on your research, Martin.

Second, a gay footballer coming out has nothing to do with being “really cool,” but for current players not to live their lives in fear, sometimes ending lifelong relationships in order to continue their careers, and for future players to take up the game.

And third, “football” isn’t desperate for this. Gay players, whose minority in football likely reflects their societal minority, are still too afraid to come out, which we know carries with it some very deep, painful psychological side-effects (you try hiding your relationship from your coworkers over the course a decades’ long career). And that’s the problem.

Finally, there are Samuel’s disgusting final paragraphs, further proof Samuel is a fairly odious person, ad hominem very much intended:

Instant credibility, instant respect, untouchable by the Football Association or future employers. His past misdeeds mentally reprocessed and explained.

‘Well, of course he put his cigar out in that bloke’s face, Gary. He was a tortured soul, forced to live a lie.’

And imagine the new material. A never-ending treasure trove for Barton’s Twitter feed: Alexander the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, Oscar Wilde, Lady Bunny.

And, let’s face it, with that new accent, he’s probably halfway there.

Note the assumption that coming out as gay will in Samuel’s vision provide incredible benefits for the player in question. One wonders if this is the case why a gay player hasn’t come out earlier. All of these assertions are false, and again, Samuel knows it.

Coming out as gay would place a bullseye on a player’s head, and that player would be subject to relentless abuse from opponents, fans, the tabloid media of which Martin Samuel is an employed member. If that player was at a club with less progressive views on homophobia, he could see his playing minutes reduced, or a few years pass before he’s quietly placed on the transfer market. For all we know, this has already taken place with players merely suspected of being gay.

As for the last two paragraphs, only a massive bigot would send these to their editor for approval, and it would take an even bigger bigot to approve them. The final para, a reference to Barton’s French accent as being gay, is one of the worst things I’ve read this year. The silence so far this morning from his contemporaries is deafening.