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Rant: How Poker Players Perpetuate Prejudice Without Thinking
Just last month, Gay Rights charity Stonewall got together with Irish bookmaker PaddyPower to launch the “Right Behind Gay Footballers” campaign.
Over 5,000 pairs of rainbow shoelaces were sent to all professional clubs in England, Scotland and Wales.
Everton FC were amongst the teams to back the bid by wearing the laces in their away victory at West Ham.
“For me and the rest of the lads at Everton a player’s sexuality is not important, but their ability on the pitch is," Everton and England center-half Phil Jagielka told Yahoo! Sports.
"No one should feel that they can’t be themselves - on or off the pitch - so that is why we are supporting this initiative.”
Featherweight fighter Orlando Cruz recently made the headlines when he became the first openly gay boxer in the sport's history.
To show support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) social movement Cruz fought - and lost - against Orlando Salido in Las Vegas wearing rainbow-colored shorts and pink-and-black boxing gloves.
And How Does Poker Pitch In?
Earlier this week Dan Bilzerian reached out to his 14,823 Twitter followers with news that Jeff Gross had won a prop bet against Bill Perkins worth, reportedly, $550,000.
That’s a large sum of money. So what on earth had Gross done to earn it?
Whilst we all have a cheeky fiver with our mates over who will pull the bird by the bar, Bill Perkins paid Jeff Gross $550,000 to have a "gay rainbow tattoo" on his back.
A Harmless Joke?
During a recent interview with PokerNews sideline reporter Kristy Arnett, Gross said:
“I am not homophobic, and if anyone knows me they will know I’m not gay. I support gay marriage, and gay rights.
"It was just a ridiculous scenario. I had the value and had to do it.”
I don’t know Perkins, so I cannot comment on his opinion of homophobia. But I do know men, and believe this is nothing more than a couple of friends having a laugh.
Unfortunately, there could be deeper consequences as a result of their actions and it does raise the issue of responsibility.
What Are Those Consequences?
Back in May the Observer revealed that the Players Football Association (PFA) Chairman Clarke Carlisle was approached by eight gay footballers - of whom seven had decided to stay quiet.
Not because they were scared of the reaction of teammates but for fears of how fans and the media would respond.
Back to boxing and Cruz told Yahoo Sports that, ‘I was scared,’ before adding, “I was worried about other boxers. I was worried about the fans. I would cry many, many nights thinking about it."
A prop bet is essentially a dare. If you are successful you win a prize and if you fail you suffer a forfeit.
So Perkins believes that showing your support for the rights of gay people is a "punishment" for Gross worthy of a $550,000 wager.
Players will continue to talk to Gross about this bet when he is at the table. Some might want to see the tattoo. There will be discussions centered on whether or not other players would have done the same.
Some players will say they would have done it and others will say they would have been against it. All the time a gay poker player might be sat there, intimidated or unable to express his opinion.
Imagine a young gay person who has struggled with homophobia all of his life. He sees Gross’s tattoo and engages him in conversation.
After a short while the young gay person thanks Gross for his support for gay rights.
“What! Oh that! I did that for a bet mate … yeah … some guy paid me $550,000 to have it tattooed on my back for a forfeit.
"I’m not gay … but I do support gay rights.”