Former Super League player and one of the sports only openly gay players has spoken out about the controversial ongoing football World Cup in Qatar.
Keegan Hirst, formerly of Super League side Wakefield Trinity among others, became the first British professional rugby league player to come out as gay, doing so in 2015.
Since then Hirst has been a vocal advocate for gay rights and campaigned against homophobia.
In coming out he changed the face of rugby league and also of the perception of what being a gay man in 21st century Britain was.
Since then the Super League has supported Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign which is aimed at promoting inclusivity and LGBT acceptance within professional sport.
In a tweet that came just after the first game of the highly criticised tournament he stated that “people like Alex Scott, David Beckham & Gary Neville” were “not the enemy”.
Much criticism has been thrown at those pundits, among others, who are broadcasting at the World Cup and Hirst added that they were “all guilty of hypocrisy and virtue signalling by going to Qatar”.
Hirst then went on to define virtue signalling as “the practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue”.
Qatar is a small nation on the Arabian peninsula and criticism has been thrown at FIFA, football’s governing body, for holding the tournament there primarily due to their horrific human rights record – in particular jail sentences of up to seven years for the so called crime of homosexuality.
People like Alex Scott, David Beckham & Gary Neville are all guilty of hypocrisy and virtue signalling by going to Qatar, absolutely. BUT, they’re not the enemy. The enemy are people who shoot up gay night clubs & harass and bully LGBT people. That’s where ire should be directed.
— Keegan Hirst (@KeeganHirst) November 20, 2022
However Hirst reaffirmed that the real enemy in the battle against homophobia was “people who shoot up gay night clubs & harass and bully LGBT people” arguing “that’s where ire should be directed”.
Hirst’s comments don’t just come in the backdrop of the controversial tournament, but also days after a gay night club in Colorado was targeted by a gunman.