A gay college soccer player has filed a Title IX complaint after fans allegedly heckled him, including by one who called him an anti-gay slur.
Sam Johnson plays for Whittier College and was facing off against Occidental College, in nearby Los Angeles, on September 8 when the incident is said to have occurred.
He tweeted about it during the early hours of the following morning, saying he represents “my institution and the LGBTQ+ community proudly and unapologetically,” and adding that the Occidental fan’s “bigotry speaks volumes.”
To the @OxyAthletics fan at @Occidental who called me a “faggot” tonight at my game: I hope you got the satisfaction you were looking for, but just know I represent my institution and the LGBTQ+ community proudly and unapologetically. Your bigotry speaks volumes.
— Sam Johnson (@Sam_Johnson_) September 9, 2018
The college responded, apologizing and saying it was not a reflection of the school’s values.
Sam, we regret that you had this experience on our grounds — thank you for bringing this to our attention. We want to make clear that this does not reflect the values of Occidental, Occidental Athletics, or the Men's Soccer Team. We will DM you about further steps you can take.
— Occidental Athletics (@OxyAthletics) September 10, 2018
Johnson told Outsports a group of mostly male friends, situated behind the home team, were scanning the social media accounts of he and his teammates to get fodder for personal attacks. In addition to being targeted for his sexuality, he said he was mocked for being skinny, and that other players were subject to insults about their girlfriends.
Instead of cheering on their own team, he said that group of fans simply spent all their time directing abuse at the visiting team and “just trying to make it difficult for us to play.”
“I’ve never been so uncomfortable on a soccer field in my life. I just have never been so rattled, so uncomfortable, and I wanted to get off that field as soon as I possibly could.”
“I was made aware of the incident in question early this week,” said Rob Flot, Vice-President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students for Occidental College. “Since that point we’ve been working to support the individual who alerted us to the alleged incident, and, we’ve also been investigating the allegations. We have been in communication with individuals at Whittier as part of the process.”
Johnson said he has always thought of the soccer field as a place he could escape from his problems, and even wrote his college application essay about how the sport allowed him to feel equal as a gay man. He came out in 2016, after the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, and said his coaches and teammates have been supportive of him.
He told Outsports he decided to report the event for the same reason he decided to live openly.
“Going all the way back to sharing my coming out story, I have just wanted to impact one person,” he said. “And if something can be understood so this doesn’t happen to another athlete in our conference that’s what I want.”