Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has said that he can no longer remain silent over homophobic abuse in football out of love and respect for his brother.
Writing in The Players’ Tribune, Ramsdale explained how he wanted football to be “a safe and welcoming place for everyone,” including his brother Oliver, who is gay.
“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,” Ramsdale wrote.
“And I think maybe my brother has done the same, thinking it would make my life easier.
“Well, all that ends today … I want my brother, Ollie – or anyone of any sexuality, race or religion – to come to games without having to fear abuse.”
According to a report of the 2022-23 season released by Kick It Out, the English football anti-discrimination group said it received 1,007 reports of discriminatory behaviour, a 65.1% rise on the previous season.
While racism was the most prevalent form of discrimination, Kick It Out said research undertaken by Signify, which investigates online threat and disinformation, had identified “peaks of homophobic and misogynistic abuse targeting several high-profile WSL [Women’s Super League] players,” even as the game’s authorities continue to promote a number of campaigns tackling homophobia and promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Ramsdale said that his brother, who is a performer on London’s West End, is “the real superstar of the family” and “the brave one.”
He added: “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.
“I haven’t talked about it before, but with everything going on in football right now, I thought it was important to mention.
“Oliver is a lot like me, in many ways. He’s a regular bloke. Loves football. Loves knocking about with his mates. Loves the Gunners. He’s proud of me, and I’m really proud of him.”
In his wide-ranging Players’ Tribune letter, Ramsdale also wrote about his rise from the lower leagues of English football, the abuse he has received on the pitch and on social media, and his wife’s miscarriage while they returned from a holiday earlier this year.
“There’s really no way that I can describe the pain of that six-hour flight back to London, even now,” Ramsdale wrote.
“I just want people out there to know that they’re not alone if they’re going through it themselves. When we got back, I didn’t tell many people what happened. Only my family, my teammates, and of course [Arsenal manager] Mikel [Arteta].”
The 25-year-old Ramsdale, who joined Arsenal from Sheffield United two years ago, said that Arteta “forever has my respect for how he handled our grief.”
He also explained how, just days after the miscarriage, he was kicked in the back by a Tottenham fan after Arsenal’s 2-0 victory in the North London Derby.
According to ESPN, the fan was subsequently banned from attending football matches for four years, handed a 12-month community order, and made to pay Ramsdale £100 ($127).
“I remember when I got back to the dressing room, I couldn’t even celebrate because I got pulled out to give a police statement,” the goalkeeper said about the incident.
“You know, I almost felt bad for the bloke who had done it, because I thought to myself: If he only knew me as a person, and what I’m actually going through right now, there’s no way that he would’ve done that.
“If we bumped into each other one day and got chatting about football, we’d probably be mates.”
Ramsdale has made three appearances for England and was an integral part of Arsenal’s Premier League title pursuit last season, which saw the Gunners finish five points behind Manchester City.
The new Premier League season begins on August 11 with Arsenal opening its campaign against Nottingham Forest at the Emirates Stadium the following day.