Discussion: Homophobia in the Israeli Sports

Former basketball player Gili Mosinzon who came out recently in a moving post on Facebook, participated in a discussion at the Sports Committee of the Knesset on the subject of violence against LGBT people in Israeli sport.

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“Violence and racism in sports came up more than once in discussions in the Knesset, but when it comes to homophobia everyone chooses to ignore it. This is violence like any other violence and it affects all of us; coaches, fans, players and the general public,” Gili Mosinzon said in the Knesset.

Mosinzon continued: “When a youth-team alumnus moves to a senior team, that’s the most critical time for an athlete and that junction can destroy your soul, because that is also when your sexual identity is determined.”

Other sportsmen who came out of the closet in previous years joined the discussion, and all of them indicated the severity of the phenomenon. “There are very few athletes out of the closet and in Israel there are only three,” said Barak Attar, former Israeli swimming champion. “In my case, everyone knew I was gay but there’s no doubt that my presence disturbed other swimmers and coaches. I felt it in training. They had difficulty including me. Gili’s coming out was very important, because everyone knows him, and therefore he’s a trailblazer.”

Knesset member Merav Ben-Ari, who ran the discussion in the committee, said: “Gili, there are very few who come here and make us cry. You have a big impact, you have managed to enter the homes of many families, and you managed to move me too.”

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Tal Maoz and Sagi Krispin – Chairmen of TLV Sports Club, who initiated the discussion, presented ways of dealing with the phenomenon: “Today the sports arena does not allow safe space for members of the gay community and prevents many of them from taking part in the activities as athletes, coaches, referees and fans. Punitive measures are required and also educational measures as well as providing the means and powers to the authorities in treating these symptoms. “