A New Hampshire college soccer player has spoken out after he was called a homophobic slur during a recent game.
Couper Gunn, a gay player on Colby-Sawyer College’s Chargers men’s soccer team, was called a slur by a member of the Rivier University Raiders just before halftime on Sept. 22, Outsports reports.
“I was upset I’d been called that, but I was more upset because I was thinking about all the queer kids who that kid comes into contact with every day,” Gunn said.
“He perpetuates that, even if he didn’t mean it, using the F word,” he said. “And I was just so sad that someone like that exists, who would use that language. I was present with how unsafe and how unwelcome that made me feel for a few minutes.”
But after an inspiring halftime speech by the head coach, Gunn’s team earned their first win of the season, sending a “message of love and support,” writes Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports.
Gunn, captain of the soccer team, was wearing a rainbow-colored armband while facing off against Rivier University.
Located in New Hampshire, both Colby-Sawyer and River University are part of the Division III Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC).
Gunn said that during the match, an opposing player told to him, “Get that faggot armband off of you.”
Earlier this year, Gunn had spoken with his teammates about the “subversive homophobia” of their language, hoping to “make them aware of the issues and things they may not have thought about.”
“He talked about the ignorance on the team, and how sometimes we don’t know we’re being homophobic and we need to be educated,” Lucas Boetsch, one of Gunn’s co-captains on the team, told Oputsports. “He talked to us about what it’s like to be an openly gay man today and educating us about the LGBTQ community. And that’s something I’m really proud of, his work in support of the community.”
Since this conversation, Gunn said that the change in his teammates’ behavior has been “incredible.” And so when Gunn’s teammates heard a Rivier player call him a slur, they were outraged.
Gunn briefly spoke with his opponent, the referee and the coach, and the game continued.
“I was very proud of Couper in the way he responded,” Boetsch told Outsports. “He didn’t retaliate. He had the opportunity to lay the kid out, but he didn’t. He let the game talk.”
At halftime, the Colby-Sawyer head coach, Bob Reasso, comforted Gunn and encouraged his teammates to show Rivier what “coming after one of their brothers…meant to all of them,” Zeigler writes.
Although the teams started the second half tied 0-0, over the next 45 minutes, Colby-Sawyer scored five goals against Rivier, winning the game.
Afterward, Gunn shared his pride in his teammates in a TikTok video that has received almost 9,000 likes.
“We went on to beat them, 5-0, and embarrass them at their fields under their lights in front of their home fans,” Gunn said in the video.
In a statement to Outsports, both Rivier athletic director Joanne Merrill and GNAC spokesperson Michael Ghika said they take what happened “very seriously.” GNAC is suspending Gunn’s opponent for four games.
“We hope this unfortunate incident sparks important conversation and provides further education on fully supporting the LGBTQ+ community,” Ghika told Outsports. “The GNAC will devote resources to inclusive programming on the matter for its student-athlete population.”
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