Is waving the Pride flag compulsory now? The Idrissa Gueye scandal suggests it might be. Footballer Gueye did not play for his team, Paris Saint-Germain, on Saturday because he declined to wear a new top on which the players’ numbers are emblazoned with the Pride colours. How dare he. Reject Pride, get shamed.
Gueye is from Senegal and he clearly has quite traditional beliefs. It seems as though homosexuality is not something that he personally wants to celebrate. And for that, for holding true to his own moral convictions, he is being treated as a heretic.
The French Football Federation has demanded an explanation. He must either ‘issue an apology’ or come out and say that the reports about his reluctance to don the rainbows colours are ‘unfounded’, says the FFF. In short, renounce your beliefs. Bow down to Pride. Genuflect to the rainbow.
It is striking that this affair took place in the same week that Jake Daniels of Blackpool became the first British footballer in decades to come out as gay. Daniels, just 17, was widely praised for his bravery. He is clearly a headstrong and admirable young man. Yet just days after Daniels warmed the hearts of the British people, Gueye in France was dragged into the metaphorical stocks for declining to deck himself out in the Pride colours.
So in professional football today, you can be an out and proud homosexual but you cannot harbour even a sliver of moral doubt about homosexuality? You are free to be yourself in terms of sexuality, but you are not free to be yourself in terms of religious belief?
I’m not sure we can really call football ‘tolerant’ if it celebrates the likes of Daniels for being openly gay — which is great — but then questions and shames Gueye for his internal beliefs about sex and morality.
Other players got caught up in the shaming of Gueye. Watford winger Ismaila Sarr posted a picture of himself with Gueye on Instagram alongside three heart emojis. In response Watford said it would ‘offer further education’ to its employees. Is Sarr in for some re-education? Cheikhou Kouyate of Crystal Palace posted that Gueye is a ‘real man’. Palace boss Patrick Vieira said he would have a word with him.
This is not about defending Gueye’s views on homosexuality (which are not entirely clear anyway). The vast majority of us in the 21st century do not believe that homosexuality is sinful. We fully support gay people having the same rights as straight people. But if we are serious about tolerance, about granting freedom of conscience to everyone, surely we should support other people’s right to believe homosexuality is sinful?
It is wonderful that, as the saluting of Jake Daniels shows, football is accepting of gay players. But what about traditionalist Catholics? Or observant Muslims? Are they welcome on the pitch? The Gueye affair implies they wouldn’t be. How long before a morality test is introduced to filter out problematic players? ‘Do you now or have you ever questioned the morality of homosexuality…?’
Then there’s the hypocrisy. The breathtaking hypocrisy. Paris Saint-Germain is owned by the emir of Qatar, a country where homosexuality is illegal. The entire footballing world, including those currently wagging a finger at Gueye, will decamp to Qatar later this year for the World Cup. So you can rub shoulders with a state that criminalises gay love but you cannot privately believe that there might be something off about homosexuality? These are oceangoing double standards.
Here’s the thing: I would refuse to wear the Pride colours too. Not because I have a problem with homosexuality — people should be free to love whoever they like — but because Pride has become such a dull, orthodox and increasingly intolerant worldview.
Pride, it seems to me, is no longer about celebrating gay freedom but rather has become a globalised orgy of virtue-signalling. Adorning oneself or one’s business in the rainbow colours is really a way of saying ‘I’m good. I’m nice. I have the correct views.’ And by extension, anyone who rejects the rainbow is viewed as suspect, as a sinner, as someone who might require a spot of re-education.
It isn’t just Gueye. Remember the scandal when Ockbrook and Borrowash Parish Council in Derbyshire voted not to fly the Pride flag for a couple of years? It was treated as an act of blasphemy. ‘Anger as Pride Month flag snubbed by Derbyshire council again’, said an actual BBC headline.
The Pride colours are omnipresent. Capitalists in particular love them. Every bank and big business goes rainbow-coloured during Pride month. Street crossings are now painted in the Pride colours, even though disability activists say this is disorientating for assistance dogs. Schools, councils, even Marks & Spencer sandwiches – it’s just rainbow on rainbow these days.
It all feels a little oppressive. It’s about compelling us to bend the knee to the politics of identity. I’d rather not, thanks. I’ll take my chances with free thought over the forced and phoney performance of virtue that Pride has become.