Olympic champion Tom Daley will address the nation with a message of inclusion in Channel 4’s prestigious Alternative Christmas Message which airs on Christmas Day.
In the heartfelt address, Tom talks about the pride he’s felt representing his country but how sometimes didn’t feel good enough. He applauds the athletes that have opened up about their struggles this year who've encouraged him to talk about his mental health more often.
Tom reveals how “incredibly lucky” he is that his sport has supported him to live as an openly gay man, but he acknowledges not everyone in sport has the same backing. Using the platform to raise an issue close to his heart he speaks of homophobia in sport, particularly football.
In October Australian footballer Josh Cavallo became the first and only topflight male player to come out as gay. Tom praises Josh’s courage but uses this startling example to question why in the world’s most popular sport, with 65,000 professional players, just one top male footballer felt comfortable enough to come out and talk openly about their sexuality.
Tom talks about the need for a culture change in football, adding, 'if I had one Christmas wish it would be that next year that changes. That one impossibly brave Premier League player steps forward and says, ‘I am gay’. That person would inspire gay people everywhere, give hope to thousands of teenagers struggling with their sexuality and save the lives of countless young people who don't currently feel like they have a place in this world.”.
To emphasise the problem Tom raises “In 2022 the World Cup is being held in the second most dangerous country for queer people, Qatar. Why are we allowing places that aren’t safe for ALL fans and ALL players to host our most prestigious sporting events?”
Tom applauds how this year’s Olympics saw its first trans athletes competing referencing Quinn, the first out trans Olympic medallist who won gold for the Canadian women’s soccer team. Tom applauds the impressive achievements of trans athletes, “especially in the current climate of fear and panic around trans people” and adds that “there is no LGB without the T.”.
Tom closes with a call for inclusivity and equality saying “We can make this country the most accepting, the most inclusive, the most progressive country on Earth. What if in Britain anybody could be anything regardless of where they started? What if we all started from the same place. Now wouldn’t that be something to be proud of?”
Channel 4’s Director of Programmes, Ian Katz, comments “Tom Daley’s Olympic triumph made him one of the faces of 2021 and we are delighted that he is using The Alternative Christmas Message as a platform to speak out and raise an issue close to his heart – and ours. It is shocking and depressing that that our most popular sporting league remains an environment in which no gay player feels able to openly be themselves and we hope Tom’s message will make a small contribution to changing that.”
The Alternative Christmas Message, Christmas Day, 5pm on Channel 4 and All 4
Notes to Editors
Pictures are available at www.channel4.com/press/images
This year’s Twitter hashtag is #AltXmas
I started knitting to help with my mental health…We don’t traditionally talk about stuff like that in sport - we’re not supposed to ‘do’ fear.
Being in the public spotlight since the age of 14 I’ve had some amazing experiences, and I’ve been proud to represent my country; but there have been times when I felt that I wasn’t good enough. I felt I couldn’t dive. On some days the biggest leap was simply getting out of bed.
This year listening to many sports people open up and talk about their own struggles has inspired me to open up and talk about my own mental health more often. In the summer, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from competition at the height of her career, put her hands up and said that she was struggling. We should all be inspired by the strength she showed, that it’s okay to not be okay, and when that happens that you are right to lay down boundaries and not to harm yourself to please others.
I am incredibly lucky that I can live my life as an out gay man, my family, friends, fellow divers, and my coaches have all been amazingly supportive. Mostly they don’t care, because it doesn’t change who I am to them. I’m deliberately myself and this is just extra info. So what, who cares who’s gay anymore, right?
But if we are talking specifically about sports, Football is the world’s most popular. There are over 65,000 people who play the game professionally. Do you know how many top-flight men’s football players are out as gay? ONE. One footballer who has felt able to come out and talk about his sexuality.
In October Australian player Josh Cavallo came out and is currently the only out top-flight men’s footballer. Well done Josh, I mean, your courage is amazing. But just think for a moment about the number of players who are too scared to speak up, and how lonely that must be.
Nearly 7% of people in the UK identify as gay or bisexual... And there are around 500 Premier League players. That means statistically there are enough players for three football teams running out onto that pitch every week. At least one gay man at every single club in the Premier League, living a lie. So, if I had one Christmas wish it would be that next year that changes. That one impossibly brave Premier League player steps forward and says ''I am gay''.
That person would inspire gay people everywhere, give hope to thousands of teenagers struggling with their sexuality and save the lives of countless young people who don't currently feel like they have a place in this world.
In 2022 The World Cup is being held in the second most dangerous country on earth for queer people, Qatar. Why are we allowing places that aren’t safe for all fans and all players to host our most prestigious sporting events? Hosting a world cup is an honour. Why are we honouring them? Holding a Formula 1 grand prix is an honour. Why are we honouring Saudi Arabia?
Women’s sport seems to be further ahead than men’s. This year’s Olympics saw its first trans athletes competing. And Quinn was the first out trans Olympic medallist securing the Gold for the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team. The fact that they achieved this in the current climate of fear and panic around trans people, makes their achievements all the more impressive. There is no LGB with the T.
We can make this country the most accepting, the most inclusive, the most progressive country on Earth. What if, in Britain, anybody could be anything, regardless of where they started…?
What if we all started from the same place...? Now wouldn’t that be something to be proud of?
Merry Christmas everyone.
About The Alternative Christmas Message
First airing in 1993, Channel 4’s Christmas message - the alternative to the Queens annual televised message to the nation - has previously featured an illustrious and varied selection of presenters, including the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; whistle-blower Edward Snowden; Danny Dyer; Afghan war veteran Major Andrew Stockton; William Pooley, the British nurse who survived Ebola; Adam Hills; Katie Piper; Quentin Crisp; the Reverend Jesse Jackson; Doreen and Neville Lawrence; children who survived the Grenfell Tower disaster; The Simpsons; 9/11 survivor Genelle Guzman; and former speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. Last year’s message was delivered by a ‘deepfake’ digitally created The Queen.
About Channel 4
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