Borussia Dortmund are reportedly in negotiations with VFL Wolfsburg to sign Felix Nmecha, a 22-year-old box-to-box midfielder, for a fee around €25 million. According to Patrick Berger, the deal is getting close.
Is Felix Nmecha a player that will help Borussia Dortmund in a strictly sporting sense? Er... maybe, probably not, but that’s really not what I’d like to talk about today. If you’ve heard anything about Felix Nmecha in the last few weeks, it’s probably connected to multiple instances of homophobic and transphobic opinions he has expressed recently. Nmecha has received massive criticism, first after he reposted a video on Instagram by notorious anti-transgender activist Matt Walsh, and then, at the beginning of pride month, reposting an image which appeared to compare pride to the Devil. While this post did not explicitly mention the LGBT community or “pride month,” and pride is considered a cardinal sin in Catholicism, the fact he shared it on June 1st seems to be more than a coincidence, and indicates that he was almost certainly aware of the post’s meaning.
It’s also possible that he didn’t know who Matt Walsh is but shared the video anyway, in which case he’s sharing a video to his large platform that he’s woefully uninformed about. The content of the video he shared also perpetuates the increasing moral panic about parents being “forced” into transitioning their kids by the millions, a process that data shows is incredibly rare even with parental consent.
This presents an issue for Borussia Dortmund. Obviously the club sees something in him sporting wise, but his beliefs are in stark contrast to the very pro-LGBTQ+ stance that the club, and especially the fans, have taken in the past. If the club truly cares about LGBTQ+ rights, then they should look elsewhere for a Jude Bellingham replacement. Unfortunately, it does not appear that Sebastian Kehl or Hans-Joachim Watzke will take Nmecha’s opinions into consideration. That does not mean the fans have to sit this one out. Never one to let their voices go unheard, Dortmund fans must absolutely make their opposition known in every way possible.
Some of you may be wondering why it’s so important for a football club, which normally exists outside the realm of politics, to take a stand on this. While I don’t always like politics creeping into football, I think this is one particular instance where it cannot be ignored. Like it or not, professional sports as a whole is a leading social institution, and should be at the vanguard of promoting social progress, and in a situation like this, sitting on the sidelines is equivalent to choosing a side. Allow me to explain why.
Why the Pride Movement is Important
The phrase you so often hear from anti-pride dissidents runs something akin to, “I have nothing against LGBTQ+ rights, I just don’t want it shoved in my face.” Firstly, as an aside, nobody anywhere is “shoving” anything in anybody’s face. I live in Washington DC, one of the most liberal cities in the world, and outside of a few rainbow flags and a single email blast at my office, I wouldn’t have even known it was pride month. If you want to ignore it, it is abundantly easy to do so.
What these people mean when they say “shoving,” really is just, “existing in public.” What they consider “shoving” can be as simple as a rainbow flag on a corporate logo, a trans person going about their business in public, two men holding hands, or a nonbinary character in a movie. In their ideal society their LGBTQ+ friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers would be living a lie, forced to obscure their true selves to avoid offending the sensitivities of the bigots around them.
To me, this is not a righteous society. While no two peoples’ experiences are identical, a pretty common thread when you read accounts of members of the LGBTQ+ community is that living in the closet can be agonizing. The constant depression, self-loathing, and fear that your loved ones won’t accept you for who you are can grind you to dust. This is why pride month isn’t just for those who self-identify as LGBTQ+ to express themselves. It’s also an opportunity for those of us who aren’t in the community to demonstrate that the worries of our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who might still be in the closet are ultimately unwarranted, and that if they make the difficult choice to come out they will not be met with rejection, disownment, inhumane medical treatment, or any of the other tribulations that members of the LGBTQ+ community have had to suffer, but will be embraced with warmth and acceptance by their peers who love them just the way they are.
What This Means for Borussia Dortmund
I’m not going to stop rooting for BVB if they sign Felix Nmecha. I love this club and this community too much, and to be perfectly honest, I really don’t think most professional footballers are paragons of moral virtue these days. However, there are several things we absolutely must do as fans. First, we must continue to support all of the club’s pro-LGBTQ+ efforts. Second, we must continue to hold Felix Nmecha accountable for his past statements or actions and any future statements or actions. Finally, we must never, ever, make excuses for our beloved club. Just because they don’t take a stand on this doesn’t mean we have to accept or support it.