2013 Jerez MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Of Full Paddocks, Named Corners, And Sexuality In MotoGP

The MotoGP paddock is assembled in all its splendor at Jerez, and it is positively bulging at the seams. Shiny new hospitality units (very shiny, in the case of the Go&Fun Gresini unit) now pack the paddock, the existing units larger and new units added, causing the paddock to loosen its belt and expand into the adjacent car park, sequestering part of the area previously reserved for team and media cars. Under a bright blue Andalusian sky, it really is looking at its most appealing.

The expanded paddock makes you understand why IRTA decided to ban Moto2 and Moto3 riders from having their motorhomes in the paddock, all of them now expelled. The riders themselves are less impressed. "It was nice to have somewhere you could zone out during the day, and relax," Scott Redding said of the change. Sitting in the hospitality and watching the world go by was very pleasant, but still left him on his guard, he explained. Private quiet time was gone.

And it also removes part of the socialization process which young riders used to undergo, with the Moto2 and Moto3 men wandering around the paddock chatting to team members and other riders, everyone getting to know each other, and catching up on the latest news and gossip. It was part of what made the paddock feel like a village; a small Italian village, high in the mountains, with an inexplicably male-dominated population. The Moto2 and Moto3 riders added much to the fun of the place, spending most of their evenings challenging each other to wheelie competitions on mountain bikes and scooters. The paddock loses much with the change, feeling more like a workplace than a community.

Despite the loss of teenage hooligans trying to outdo each other at various two (and one) wheeled contests, there is a real buzz in the paddock. The race is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in a very long time, possibly one of the best races of the season. The reason is simple: this is a track which, though it favors the Yamaha, the Honda can compete as well. "Every track has places where each bike is strong," Dani Pedrosa told the Spanish media today, pointing out that the poor weather at the test in March had worked against the Honda, and not given a true picture of how well they thought they could do.

But the Yamahas are favorite, with Jorge Lorenzo's name being penciled onto the trophy on Sunday. Cal Crutchlow spent an interesting five minutes explaining to the assembled English media exactly why Jorge Lorenzo is so fast. "Every time we get to the same lean angle that he does, we crash," Crutchlow said. "I crash, Dovi (Andrea Dovizioso) crashed, Rossi crashes. Jorge does it in every corner, on every lap."

A win for Lorenzo at Jerez would be fitting, as he has a special connection with the circuit. It was the first proper track he ever rode at, back in 1997 when he was 10. It was the track he made his Grand Prix debut on, on his 15th birthday back in 2002. And he will celebrate his 26th birthday on Saturday at the track, where a corner - the final hairpin, scene of many legendary battles - will be named in his honor. Renaming that hairpin will also remove one of the last traces of tobacco sponsorship from the sport; it is currently named the Ducados hairpin, after the Spanish cigarette brand which sponsored racing throughout the 1980s and 1990s. To this day, there are pictures of Sito Pons riding a Ducados-liveried Derbi to be found in bars all around Jerez. The pictures remain, but the cigarette sponsorship is now gone.

A lot of the interest is in the Ducati garage, where Michele Pirro will be racing the latest version of Ducati's lab bike. The two factory Ducati men are also intrigued, and are looking forward to riding the bike on Monday at the test. Nicky Hayden expanded further on the differences between Pirro's 'lab bike' and the existing GP13. He had taken a close look during the test in November. "At that point it was still a bit of a lab bike," Hayden explained, "so it wasn't the cleanest bike. But it was very interesting what they did with the adjustable chassis, it was very nice to see and a great concept. That was something Filippo [Preziosi] had shown me drawings of last year, and right away it was something which was pretty impressive."

The main point of the lab bike was to allow Ducati to rapidly test changes in chassis flexibility, Hayden explained. "Last year was the first time Ducati built an aluminum chassis, and we're up against manufacturers who've been doing it for years," Hayden said. "Number-wise, geometry-wise, we knew where we wanted to be, but the one thing we've had a hard time doing is finding the right stiffness, flexibility, lateral. There's more than just one kind of stiffness, you need torsional stiffness for braking, for turning, and with this bike it's easier to try to dial in the right stiffness without changing a complete chassis every time," Hayden went on to say. "The main thing is to try to find the right stiffness without building a new chassis, which you can't do overnight, and you can't make the change in 20 minutes in a run, you've got to wait two hours and then see, but then the track's hot or whatever." The adjustable chassis made it much easier to make comparisons based on differing flexibility.

Hayden himself appeared with his right arm covered in bandages. Between Qatar and Austin, his right wrist had started to swell, though the cause was not entirely clear. He had a lot of tendonitis, he said, as well as a lot of inflammation in his wrist. It was painful, and he had a lack of motion in it. "Sitting here talking to you, it's OK," Hayden joked. Riding a MotoGP bike is an entirely different matter.

Now on to something much more sensitive. As a rule, I try to avoid politics on this website, as for the most part, the world of motorcycle racing is only tangentially related to politics, but there is one issue that caught my imagination recently. Last week, NBA center Jason Collins came out as the first openly homosexual athlete in any of America's four major sports. He did so very publicly, in Sports Illustrated, the US' most important sports publication. It triggered a debate that is long overdue, on the fact that there are so many professional athletes, and yet a statistically improbably low number of openly homosexual or lesbian players in almost any sport.

It is a conversation I have had a number of times with various people in the paddock. Coming from a country in which homosexuality is a non-issue - or at least, in big cities, and outside of certain communities - it seemed to me odd that there were no openly homosexual riders in the Grand Prix paddock. In fact, there are very few openly homosexual journalists, mechanics, team managers, or whatever in the MotoGP paddock. That goes beyond a statistical anomaly; that reeks of prejudice. Though I personally believe what people choose to do in their bedrooms (or any other room) is entirely up to them, to be in an environment where no one feels comfortable enough to be open about their sexuality is slightly disturbing.

Clearly, motorcycle racing - or rather, all of motorsports, as F1 journalist Will Buxton wrote much more eloquently than I ever will about homosexuality and the role of women in racing - is a very old-fashioned environment. Let me correct that: motorcycle racing is a hotbed of misogyny and homophobia. That's not to say that everyone in the paddock is a misogynist or homophobe, but that the atmosphere in the paddock, the pervasive machismo, is such that openly denigrating women or homosexuals is tolerated. Even the most open-minded of the friends I have made in the paddock (and there are a lot of wonderful people there, open, honest and authentic) will often say nothing when ugly attitudes towards women or homosexuals are given a public airing by others. Those airing them are in the minority, but people do not speak out against them. Nor do I, from cowardice, my worst vice.

My fear that the lack of openly gay individuals in the paddock is down to prejudice and homophobia has been fed by a number of incidents. I know personally of at least two individuals who have left the paddock because of the prejudice they felt against them. It is not a pleasant environment in which to work for those who are openly gay, though it is markedly easier for lesbian women than it is for gay men. That, in itself, is symptomatic of the misogyny in the paddock, feeding male fantasies already stoked up by the plethora of women serving a purely decorative role in racing, regardless of what other qualities they may possess.

With all this in mind, and thinking of Jason Collins' experience in the US, I asked a question in the press conference at Jerez on Thursday. It was phrased badly (something I know I need to work on), but it was as follows: "This is a question for everyone - it is quite a difficult question. Last week Jason Collins, an NBA player, admitted he was homosexual. Now there have been are no openly homosexual MotoGP riders. I want to hear your thoughts on why that is not the case. Are people afraid of coming out as gay, or are you all just more really interested in women?" The latter comment was meant as a light-hearted jest, trying to break the ice. I am still no good at asking the tough questions.

The full transcript appears below, courtesy of my good friend Jensen Beeler of Asphalt & Rubber (where these articles also appear), but the responses, and the conversation, was illustrative of the problem. The responses of the riders were all entirely supportive, unsurprisingly. These are all young men who grew up in an age when being gay was not 'a thing'. To them, it is almost entirely normal - almost, as they all felt the need to clarify their own situation, despite the fact that I did not ask them whether they were homosexual, merely why there were no openly gay riders in the paddock. The best answer was that given by Stefan Bradl, who joked "Maybe if it makes us faster we will think about it…"

The response of the assembled media was not quite so enlightened, given the sniggering and nervous laughter with which both the question and many of the answers were met. This, too, is no surprise, given that the average age of the media representatives is probably twenty years higher than the riders. Here, the generation gap shows through, and it is here, it must be said, where the prejudice that has chased others out of the paddock emanates.

I was not interested in outing a particular rider, nor am I interested in which of the riders may or may not be gay. The way in which riders are perceived by the fans does interest me, however. There have long been rumors that a number of the riders are gay, as Jorge Lorenzo alluded to in his response. The suggestions of homosexuality are, as far as I know, based almost entirely on a cultural misunderstanding, on a failure to understand the different behaviors and signals found in various cultures.

An obvious example is the use of the rainbow flag. In the US and Northern Europe, the rainbow flag is a symbol claimed by the gay community, and flown proudly outside gay bars and social clubs. It is a symbol behind which the entire gay community - which is in itself incredibly diverse - can assemble to present a single, united face to the world.

In Southern Europe, it is different. In Italy, the rainbow flag is largely used by the peace movement, and other movements on the political left. In a hangover from the 1960s (remember those old VW campers, painted with rainbows and sporting peace symbols?) the rainbow flag has been adopted by peace movements in Italy. When you see riders such as Alex de Angelis wearing a rainbow-colored helmet, it has nothing to do with his sexuality, and everything to do with his politics.

Then there are the rumors of riders being gay, usually surrounding riders and their friends and assistants. The example most often cited is, naturally enough, Valentino Rossi, who is widely suspected of being gay throughout the UK and much of North America.

Let us make one thing absolutely clear. Valentino Rossi is not gay. When I discussed this with an Italian journalist recently he was horrified, and he went on to explain to me at some length the culture that exists between Italian male friends. Friendships are tight, and sacred: you never, ever betray a male friend, you stand by his side at all times. This culture is even stronger in small Italian villages such as Tavullia, where Rossi grew up and still lives today. The group of friends which surround Rossi is one of the reasons he remains so grounded, the jocular atmosphere making it abundantly clear that Rossi is one of them, not someone who stands above them. He may be a multiple world champion, but his still just one of the guys.

Rossi's friendship with Uccio (the nickname of Alessio Salucci, Rossi's close friend and assistant) is a bond forged in childhood, and of unbreakable strength. The two men are close, yet the impropriety suspected in the English-speaking world is entirely without any basis. Rossi himself has had a string of girlfriends, who usually remain carefully out of the media's prying eyes, while Uccio has a child with his long-time partner, a daughter born late last year. The friendship between the two men is built on the fact that they have grown up together, having known each other since pre-school.

The relationship is not unlike those seen among male friends in Britain. The numbers of men who would rather be down the pub with their friends, instead of at home with their wives and children, is large beyond measure. So it is with Rossi and his friends: a group of men growing up together will stick together and hang out together in later life as well. That has nothing to do with sexuality; it is purely a question of companionship, nothing more.

But enough of riders who are not gay, will there ever be a rider - or team manager, or crew chief - who feels secure enough in the MotoGP paddock to come out as gay? In the current climate, that seems unlikely, given the atmosphere that still pervades motorcycle racing, especially among the generation of men in their late forties and beyond who fill some of the more senior roles in the paddock. That climate will change, however, and some time - sooner than we think - being homosexual will not even be an issue. The first rider to come out openly will cause a stir, but the second one will probably go almost unnoticed. That is exactly as it should be: it is none of my business, nor any of your business, which rider does what with whom, as long as the activities involve consenting adults.

Before that, however, the homophobia and misogyny in the paddock needs to be dealt with. Steps are being made with the poor attitudes towards women in the paddock, there are an increasing number of women performing serious and important roles. That includes roles which have not been traditionally seen as feminine, including data engineers, mechanics, and of course, now also riders. Having women feature in prominent roles opens the sport of motorcycle racing up to a wider public; little girls watching racing can now aspire to do more than just hold the umbrella over a rider, while wearing an ill-fitting and unnecessarily skimpy outfit. They can dream of being the cool woman in the team uniform with the headphones and the laptop, giving the bike one last check before the race. Or the team owner, ensuring that her rider has everything they need before the race starts. Or the rider herself, strapping on her helmet and buckling her gloves, ready to take on the greatest challenge of her life. More girls and women watching means a bigger audience, and more money in the sport. A similar transformation has taken place in British soccer, which has gone from an underfunded, hostile male atmosphere to a wealthy, successful, family-friendly leisure outing.

The same is true for making the sport more friendly towards homosexuals - or I should perhaps say, less openly hostile towards homosexuals. The pink dollar/euro is much in vogue with restaurants, hotels, and other leisure-related businesses: largely free of children, gay and lesbian couples have more disposable income to spend. That money could be helping to fund motorcycle racing as well, if the sport was perceived as being neutral towards sexuality. The sometimes rabidly macho culture which surrounds motorcycle racing only chases potential audiences away.

This does not require massive changes to the sport. In fact, it requires barely any changes at all. Making the atmosphere at a race a little less raucous, a little less macho, already helps. Providing decent facilities at a racetrack, clean bathrooms, plentiful and healthy food options, spots for children to play, will make a racetrack feel more like a nice day out for everyone, regardless of age, sex, sexuality, or race, and less like a survivalist challenge based around the Mad Max series of movies. Here at Jerez, where family groups roam both the paddock and the hillsides around the track, there are signs of a better future for motorcycle racing. One where everyone is welcome, and more people spend their money to watch racing. That might even mean more companies are interested in sponsoring motorcycle racing, and that in turn would mean that more factories could afford to return to the sport. A more open, accepting racing environment is also one with more money to spend on exotic prototypes. And that is good for everyone.


The transcript of my press conference question appears below, courtesy of Asphalt & Rubber:

David Emmett: “This is a question for everyone — it is quite a difficult question. Last week Jason Collins, an NBA player, admitted he was homosexual. Now there have been are no openly homosexual MotoGP riders. I want to hear your thoughts on why that is not the case. Are people afraid of coming out as gay, or are you all just more really interested in women?”

laughter from the crowd

Cal Crutchlow: “Should I go first?!”

David Emmett: “Yes please!”

more laughter

Cal Crutchlow: “Sorry David I’m off bounds — I’m nearly married. That’s all I have to say…I don’t know. I don’t think it matters, you know? I think this sport is about racing motorcycles. It’s never came out that anybody is gay. But maybe there are some, just hidden in the closet, I don’t know. Maybe I’m sat with one of them. I don’t know.”

Jorge Lorenzo: “For the people who ask me on Twitter, or whatever, if I am gay this is the time that they will know I’m not gay. I respect the gay people. Of course, there is no problem.”

David Emmett: “Anyone else?”

Nick Harris: “Marc Marquez?”

more laughter

Marc Marquez: “I think it’s not a problem. I have great respect for everybody, and everybody from a different personalities. Not a problem.”

Andrea Dovisioso: “I never thought about that, that some riders can be gay, but I think for everybody it would be not a problem. But, it is difficult to think. I don’t know why.”

Stefan Bradl: “Maybe if it makes faster we will think about it…”

laughter from the entire room

Stefan Bradl: “But so far I don’t have the experience. I’m not gay also. But for sure I respect the guys that are gay. They are also normal person.”

Scott Redding: “Yeah, same for me. I’ve been with a girlfriend for a long time now, and not really thought of going the other way so. Again, respect to everyone, and it is what it is.”

The MotoGP paddock is assembled in all its splendor at Jerez, and it is positively bulging at the seams. Shiny new hospitality units (very shiny, in the case of the Go&Fun Gresini unit) now pack the paddock, the existing units larger and new units added, causing the paddock to loosen its belt and expand into the adjacent car park, sequestering part of the area previously reserved for team and media cars. Under a bright blue Andalusian sky, it really is looking at its most appealing.The expanded paddock makes you understand why IRTA decided to ban Moto2 and Moto3 riders from having their motorhomes in the paddock, all of them now expelled. The riders themselves are less impressed. "It was nice to have somewhere you could zone out during the day, and relax," Scott Redding said of the change. Sitting in the hospitality and watching the world go by was very pleasant, but still left him on his guard, he explained. Private quiet time was gone.And it also removes part of the socialization process which young riders used to undergo, with the Moto2 and Moto3 men wandering around the paddock chatting to team members and other riders, everyone getting to know each other, and catching up on the latest news and gossip. It was part of what made the paddock feel like a village; a small Italian village, high in the mountains, with an inexplicably male-dominated population. The Moto2 and Moto3 riders added much to the fun of the place, spending most of their evenings challenging each other to wheelie competitions on mountain bikes and scooters. The paddock loses much with the change, feeling more like a workplace than a community.

Comments

"The sometimes rabidly macho

"The sometimes rabidly macho culture which surrounds motorcycle racing only chases potential audiences away ..."

I know of at least one major corporation in the U.S. AMA Superbike paddock that has banned umbrella girls from the teams it sponsors for exactly this reason.

Total votes: 105

Bollocks

You purported leftists who yearn for inequality are constantly hunting for the homosexual to "discover" so that you can "celebrate" their sexuality. In reality, you are as sexist as racist the Eugenics movement was (and is) in the United States since the times of Margaret Sanger. You are wholly uninterested in the accomplishments, achievements, and skill of those who you cover in the media. Rather, you are focused on the aspects of their personalities and their persons that make them good racers, athletes, etc. You care whether or not they prefer the company of the same sex or the opposite sex in the bedroom. In my country, if you asked that at any point, you'd be fired and subject to a civil lawsuit, which is right and proper. Perhaps in totalitarian Europe, the situation is different. But I find it repugnant that you reduce a person to their sexual proclivities rather than their performance on the racetrack or field of play. It is reductionist in the most awful sense that people are only sexual beings rather than individuals with talents, aspirations, and flaws. Ask yourself: Would it matter if Kenny Roberts preferred male company? Absolutely not. He was among the greatest racers and best racer *person* you could ever meet. Put it this way: if you are a practicing homosexual (Jason Collins had a girlfriend for many years) would you want to be known for being gay or for your contributions to your field of endeavor whether that be chemistry, racing, or administration?

But leftists never fail to point out how different people are in order to Balkanize the populace so that the each grievance group can petition the almighty Government for special treatment and unjust rewards.

I submit that David would not be so brave in the "barrios" of his homeland of Holland where the immigrant population from Northeast Africa and the Arabian peninsula is located. He's no Pim Fortuyn.

In finality, the question is sexist and is unacceptable in a modern, tolerant society.

To argue otherwise is to be a bigot.

Total votes: 164

Three generations of imbeciles may not be enough.

So one better be with them or against them.

Exit stage left.

Total votes: 93

Arg

Reading comprehension fail.

Pick your soapboxes more carefully.

Total votes: 105

Motorcycle racing is not in a bubble

Motorcycle racing, not matter how awesome we may think it is, does not exist in a bubble in of itself. It exists in a society where France just legalized gay marriage, where the US military repelled the don't ask don't tell, where riders like VR and his bff are thought to be gay by some, where the NHL has the "Hockey is for everyone" slogan, and where the first Major League athlete has openly admitted to being gay. Like it or not you can't be okay with journalists asking Ben Spies about performance enhancing drugs after the Lance Armstrong fiasco but be appalled when asked about their thoughts on the statistical impossibility of homosexuals not being in the paddock after the Jason Collins revelation.

As for you banishing the term sexist, only those that have never experienced it swing it around so haphazardly. Trust me when you actually experience sexism you will know what it truly means and just how brave Jason Collins is. And before you mention some random situation; as straight males were will never experience sexism because we have always historically been in a postion of power, we dominate the boardrooms, we statistically get paid more then women, we are represented in government disproportionately, and as a result the sexist practice of scantily clad women holding umbrellas is acceptable even though a large percentage of the population, females, find it rather appalling. So one or a few personal experiences does not undo the tide of the overall situation.

btw homosexuals are not out there waiting lurking to turn you and yours gay, for the overwhelming majority they would rather skip the bigotry and have physical relationships with like minded homosexuals. This irrational fear that heterosexual males have needs to stop.

Total votes: 121

wow

now THAT'S a response! Good show mate

Total votes: 99

Homophobia

This article, and my question, was about homophobia, not homosexuality. The fact that a number of people have been run out of the paddock because they are gay is an issue. That's why I wrote this.

Total votes: 120

Run out of the paddock..?

Please elaborate. In our 21st century PC world that sounds like a bit of hyperbole.

Sounds more like a few very thin skinned individuals taking insult over some questionable comments. I find it very difficult to believe that anyone would openly flaunt their homophobia for fear of THEY being run of of the paddock.

The weight of bearing the cross of homosexuality is much lighter than that of a bigot.

Total votes: 71

Environment

In the environment of the paddock, being a bigot is an offence that goes unpunished. That's the problem, right there.

Total votes: 92

Thank you Michael, I had

Thank you Michael, I had never fully realised that bigotry is a state of mind, rather than an issue based response.

Our host merely applied a topical issue in sport (I have no idea who Jason Collins is or what sport he plays but I am aware of his public coming out) to the sport that this website specialises in covering.

Unusual? Yes. Inappropriate? No.

The juvenile political rant that you unleashed where complex, nuanced philosophical discussion is reduced to the level of gross generalisations for use as offensive pejoratives was not warranted by the content of the article. The irony is that your knee jerk desire to paint this issue as a symptom of an ongoing left/right tribal political battle illustrates the depth of the problem David was eluding to.

Total votes: 99

The sexuality issue:

While there is nothing inherently disagreeable in what you've shared here, Dr. Krop, suffice to say the "Beyond Thunderdome" atmosphere does not translate through the satellite link-ups and downstream broadcasts on outlets like Speed TV.

My experience in trying to relate my passion for motorcycle racing (or any other "machismo" sport like, say, bowling) to gay people I know is just as fruitless as them trying to get me interested in a Broadway musical.  Certainly, not all gay men are of the colorful song-and-dance variety, but each individual rejects motorcycle racing (or any other sport, hobby, or interest) for their own reason - even if that reason is ignorance.

If they (gay men, gay women, or heterosexual women) have it in their head that they don't want to relate to a colorful set of leathers defying Physics at high speed around a racetrack as seen on a television screen, the reasons are theirs, and not attributable to the behavior of anyone in the paddock.

It is not the fault of the nature of the athletic feat that some have preconceptions intimidated by it.

And, if a marginal rider, at some point, decides to make it known that he is gay, during a period of contract negotiations, one ought to question his motive more than celebrate his "bravery".

Total votes: 107

Objectifying Women

If we want the sport to grow, it needs to become more inclusive.
If the way the sport treats women is any indication, you can only imagine how being gay might feel. I wonder how the average male racing fan would feel about having young men in scanty lycra costumes holding umbrellas on the grid ?
Probably the thing I dislike most about racing is the way it objectifies women. This surely cannot sit well with any person who truly appreciates women. Consider some women who have raced and how they have been ridiculed by some fans and media.
I have managed to get my wife and her friends to watch a few races with me and they get it - why racing's good and the personalities involved - but they are generally disgusted at the way women are portrayed in racing.
The entire industry needs to consider all this if it wants to sell more bikes to a broader range of people. Women and gay people do exist as customers.
I understand this view is not popular and the anger toward David in even bringing it up demonstrates plenty.

Total votes: 116

Respectfully, this is BS

I come to this site for great moto chat, insight and opinions.

But his is a real let-down. Something that has nothing to with motorcycling, technology, speed or talent has occupied a whole read.

What someone does in their own bedroom is their own business. Yet this this applies only sometimes.

If I prefer to have sex with big women, dirty women or married women, it's no one's business. But I would never share it with people and I surely would never expect/hope they be accepting of it....much less honored for it. It's my bedroom; my business!

The odds of playing in the NBA are 1 in a trillion. Jason Collins is talented, blessed and lucky enough to play for 12 seasons! This is way more an accomplishment than being gay. So good for Jason Collins...I guess. I don't care about who he has sex with, why do you?

Charles Barkley said it well... "as we can choose our sexual preference, we can also choose how to feel about it. And one should not be crucified for not agreeing with it either".

David, if you are a homosexual, I wouldn't care in any possible way.....I wouldn't think any more or any less of your journalism skills. I come to read your articles because of your knowledge, insight and access to the circuit.

It's disappointing that it was brought up here. Jason Collins is being jammed down our throats here in the U.S (which is fine). But now here too?

Can't we just talk motorcycles?

Total votes: 143

Agree. Total BS. Big Let Down.

100% agree!

But what I found interesting is. Rossi did not attend the press conference. And still some part of this article is confirming his non-gay status. Why the sexuality topic became part of his story? Unless the writer want to underline or targetting something from the beginning. Way before press conference.

The topic should be more about race. Not about someone's bedroom business!

Next!!! Let's talk about race

Total votes: 111

Typo

....crash," Lorenzo said. "I crash....

Fifth paragraph.. It sounded like it should have been Cal instead of Lorenzo.

Sorry for being picky, but just want to help...

Total votes: 82

I think a lot of people missed David's point

He doesn't care about people's sexual orientation. He cares that the environment is hostile towards homosexuals (and women). I personally wouldn't mind umbrella girls if they also had umbrella boys. Men have nice bodies too. And apparently sex sells or they wouldn't be there dressed like that.

It is good to know that the young riders don't care. I think maybe Cal understood the question the best since he is a native English speaker and basically says he doesn't know why there aren't any gay riders that he knows about with acknowledging that there might be. Dovizioso also admitted that he never really thought about it. Perhaps now that you brought it up they will think about it and maybe think twice when they let an anti-homosexual comment ride.

Also probably more importantly it brought the conversation to the rest of the paddock so they can be aware of the atmosphere they are generating. If everyone had the respectful attitude of these young riders then there wouldn't be a problem. I hope they learned something from them.

Bradl's comment was the most fun in a racing sense. I for one am here for the fun of it.

David did good to bring this topic up. Yeah he could have left the last part of his question off and it would have been more clear but nobody is perfect especially when it come to hard topics. What happens in the paddock does effect the racing...it effects who ends up racing for one, who is on their support team, and who foots the bill. Times they are a changing and the sport has to consider that for the future.

Total votes: 104

David, great subject, wrong crowd.

David, I salute you !

I have been following this site for years and dropping such a subject shows exactly how curious about life you are and how multiple are your interests and it would be great to have a coffee at some terrasse in Brussels this summer :)

But I'm afraid you have open up a pandora box and the answers you'll get here will show exactly the point of your article:motor racing is (unfortunately) a macho, sexist and homophobic world, an exact representation of the world out there, with people just barely accepting that women might be something else than a paddock girl waiting for a male to show her how it's done and gays are people they make fun off at the pub. Talking about it makes you either a leftist bastard or a (oh no!) gay man yourself. At the same time, theses people will resent the fact that you've "stained" Motomatters with such a subject, not understanding that it's in your honor that you leave no stone unturned and your question about homosexuality at the thursday meeting was brave to say the least but also damn interesting in fact.

I guess this is the spot where I do have to say that i'm not gay to carrefully establish exactly how remote I am from the subject but I won't cos I think we're seeing enough anti-gay bullying, macho stances and enough homophobic attacks in this world to want this to stop and take a stand. Oh, i ultimately don't care if a rider is gay or not, i just want him, or her, to be able to come out of the closet if he/she feels the need to do it and be left unhurt if doing so. Prejudice is a disease, being gay isn't.

David, bravo.

Total votes: 123

Damn...

You said it all for me :)

Total votes: 89

Me too.

Spot on; and well done David really interesting article.

Total votes: 100

+1

Great comment on an important article. As a long time lurker I felt compelled to register in order to comment on this story and the reactions. As a recent convert to bikes and racing (a few years) I generally don't have much to add, but as I suspect like many others I keep coming to Motomatters for informed, analytical, insightful comment on informed, analytical, insightful articles... and because David and other contributors debate the wider context for the sport - team operation, funding, business strategy, commercial issues, some of the politics (despite David's disclaimer above!), and social issues. These complex and difficult issues are part of what makes racing so fascinating for a newbie (well, me, anyway) and the coverage here is what makes Motomatters such a rich and rewarding source.

And on the topic in hand... well, most of it has been said above and in other comments. The longer bigotry remains tolerated or taboo, the longer it will be with us. Biking as an industry has seemed to me since first becoming interested an alarmingly white, straight, male domain, to the detriment of all concerned. Racing in particular seems to encapsulate that.

Keep it up David - you come across first and foremost as a thoroughly decent bloke and a naturally curious, challenging journalist.

Total votes: 83

Sexuality an issue, or a perception?

I have to say that I'm a bit surprised that this should be an issue for motoGp - a sport where, although physical capability is highly necessary, still ultimately relies on the person-machine interface working at a level of perfection most people cannot even grasp, let alone appreciate.

Sexuality, or gender, is irrelevant to that perfection. For those who may have no knowledge of her, the most revered test-pilot in history is Hanna Reitsch - see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanna_Reitsch for more information. She test-flew some of the world's most dangerous aircraft; one legendary story is of her testing the immense German Gotha troop-carrying glider, for which she had to be strapped into a special harness because she was was so tiny - she would have looked up to Pedrosa. By comparison, anybody who has seen an Me163 in the flesh would understand how she would have fitted - but I defy 99.99% of the population to say: ' hell, yes, I'd have a go in that'. I've been up close and personal to one, and I'd rather walk around in a thunderstorm with a hand-grenade with a cardboard pin in it strapped to my groin than fly one.

It is only lack of opportunity derived from prejudice that prevents more capable women achieving in the ranks of racing motorcyclists. That lack of opportunity starts at an early age, however, and the history of the most successful motoGp racers is one of support and success in the sport from an early age. motoGp cannot be blamed for its inheritance of the products of cultural gender conditioning, and that will change.

As for sexuality - what is the issue? A WC comes down to 18 rounds of around 45 minutes of a group of people riding at the limits of their capability on the world's fastest/most dangerous bits of two-wheeled machinery. Whether those people have a desire for others of different / the same gender, species, or even the nature of life-base is utterly and completely irrelevant. That they are faster / more cunning / more skilled, IS relevant. We watch the race. Unless it is proven that a same-sex inclination is an unfair advantage, the result of the race we watch is unquestionably down to the capabilities of the rider/machine combination.

The 'net-based vilification of Rossi as a possible homosexual is abhorrent and frankly, just as bloody tedious as the formulaic denigration of Stoner, Pedrosa, Lorenzo etc. for their perceived 'personality faults'. It is the product of limited intellect and deep prejudice.

In the world of motorcyclists I inhabit, one is judged for the person one is - not for one's adherence to supposed social 'norms'. motoGp could do a hell of a lot better in projecting a more inclusive image for the sport, but it can be blamed rather less for intent than for tardiness in achieving this.

Total votes: 92

I don't find it at all

I don't find it at all surprising that MotoGP suffers this problem. As you say it has nothing to do with physical ability, its a societal and cultural problem. Motorbiking in most countries is very male dominated and has a macho cultural image so the fact that this attitude is carried over into the sport is almost expected.

Total votes: 91

Well done David

For broaching this subject, you must have been nervous before asking the question at the press conference and I dare say before posting this article. As usual it is a well thought out piece and I suspect you were expecting the strong responces it has recieved in the comments.

Interesting that the observations you make about MotoGP and the paddock have been mirrored in the comments section of this article. It really reinforces your points about the dominent attitudes in motorsport being overly macho and homophobic; the phrase "thou doth protest too much" comes to mind when reading some of the negative comments.

I would put money on the majority of posters who have written negative comments about this article are 40+ years old and from the UK or North America. People in our countries seem to be the most uncomfortable with this subject.

And on a general note; it still staggers me how people can misinterperate something so badly. I see it time and time again online where people have got completely the wrong end of the stick when reading an article or post online, I wonder if we are talking the same language some times. It is excusable for someone for whom english is a foreign language but if this is your mother tongue then it really is unbeleivable. The mind is a powerful thing, it has already decided how to interperate the article before its barely started reading. It is similar to wine conaseurs who will tell you wine from a cheap bottle tastes bad even if its expensive wine inside, or the people who dont like the taste of coke unless its in a coke glass. So it all comes down to ingrained perseptions and preferences, for some people there is no chance of a new attitude because the current mind set wont allow it. As you note things change with each generation, it is a slow change but a good change none the less.

Keep up the good work!

Total votes: 103

Stick to bikes David

I don't come here to be preached to, but for the excellent commentary. You are very good at what you do but don't let that go to your head...

Total votes: 119

there was no preaching, only elucidation

there was no preaching, only elucidation

Total votes: 90

interesting

i usually baulk at the overt compliments to your articles David; probably as my typically reserved English personality doesn't go in for all this "you're great" crap ;) but this is an interesting, humble and thought provoking article and for that I applaud you

i would point out that you mention the riders 'answering' your question by clarifying their sexuality but you then go on to talk about Rossi and his relationship with his best friend. i feel this doesn't work well in the context of the subject matter and your overall message. you may have fallen into the same trap as the riders but then I think the majority of us do at some point or another

Total votes: 92

Bravo...

Still more an issue in the south (of Europe, and the US I suspect) where the cultures are more macho... and more of an issue in working class, less educated cultures.

Look at the demographic of motorcycle racing and see the answer. Note that while the riders were supportive, they were all at pains to present their heterosexual bona-fides!

Hopefully it will improve over time... but then you only need to look at the unprincipled exploitation of homophobia by the major French right-wing party over the last few months to see that it may take some time.

Total votes: 81

Thank you

David, thank you for bringing up this subject in such a public forum. Judging by the comments on this site and without a doubt on many others, it was obviously a brave move to ask what one would think is a pretty simple and straightforward question and one you're now getting a lot of stick for. But I applaud you for doing so and hopefully opening things up for a wider discussion which might even bring a change in the future.

I am female and I love MotoGP. I have gay friends who love MotoGP (Yes, they exist! Go figure, Rusty Bucket). I have many female friends who love MotoGP as well. Pretty much all forms of motorsport really. And this is despite being visibly judged on a sliding scale every time we walk through the paddock. Despite the ignorance of many a (male) fan at the tracks. Not all of them are ignorant of course, but enough to warrant a pattern and make a GP weekend not quite the amazing experience it would be otherwise. I can't even begin to imagine the abuse an openly gay rider would be getting in this atmosphere, being in the spotlight all the time. Probably not so much from his/her fellow riders, but from the media and especially the fans. There might not be open hostility against gays or women (although I've seen some fan banners in Italy which suggested otherwise), but it's certainly not an inclusive atmosphere for everyone and I can understand people being fed up with it and leaving the paddock if they don't fit the profile of being straight and male.

The treatment of women in the sport and the aggressive macho behaviour displayed manyfold is in my opinion a big factor why many potential gay or female fans don't become active followers of the sport. Unless you really, really love MotoGP, why would you willingly put up with that every weekend? And of course there's the heavy cultural and social influence on what is perceived to be "appropriate" interests for men and women. More than once when people found out about my interest in motorsport, they started looking at me differently, like I was suddenly "less female" in some way. It really shouldn't, but it still pisses me off. For a young girl actually wanting to race there's infinitely more of this social pressure even though it should be entirely her choice what she wants to do.

MotoGP and other motorsport catering to a specific audience with scantily clad umbrella girls and focusing on the tough manliness of their riders obviously works well and attracts a certain demographic which in turn creates a peculiar environment etc. But looking at it from a business perspective it's pretty stupid to exclude so many potential fans. There's a massive fanbase out there which they will never reach if things don't change. Sofa Racer once wrote an excellent piece about this on here. But the media aspect is only one part of it, changing people's mindset and creating a naturally tolerant environment is the main thing and infinitely more difficult. Judging by some of the comments even on this site (which honestly caught me by surprise), we still have a very long way to go. Maybe we just have to wait until the dinosaurs with their antiquated views die out. Then again, David is no spring chicken either (sorry, David) and yet appears to have an open mind.

I love the sport. A lot. But almost everything around it sucks. I would love for this to change and enjoy it all much more, so thank you David for opening this can of worms.

Total votes: 114

The presence of this feature has a message.

This is a tough one because there is still a prevailing 'macho' culture in many societies and areas of life.
I'm firmly heterosexual, but had my doubts and questions as a teenager - more about fear of being 'abnormal' than anything else, now I think about it. UK society then was almost unimaginable today - Alf Garnett, a character in a BBC TV series, made a huge audience laugh at overtly racist 'jokes' (and some homophobic ones as well I suspect). That's how UK society was.
Today that would be unthinkable TV content, and the attitudes pre-historic.
Many males, me incl., are fearful of homosexuals - it's a huge threat. What I would suggest is - put yourself in the position of those girls/women being used by the teams and their sponsors, being 'chatted-up' by men who think they may be 'in with a chance'. Some are using their money, power, or position to manipulate inexperienced or vulnerable people for sexual reasons. I'm not comfortable with that and the sooner it is consigned to Alf Garnett's section of history the better.
Don't get me wrong - I believe that women dressed in skimpy clothes is attractive, but you have to ask the question - if your wife or daughter was dressed like that would you be OK with it? If you can, and you can be sure its a 'look, don't touch' environment, then fine. Sport needs to be 'clean' in all ways.
Variety is the spice of life - just don't force your preferences upon anyone else.
I have met some really 'gay' men and some really 'butch' women who seem to revel in their outrageous behaviour. Once I have established (with the gay guys) that we are just joking I can live with that and enjoy the craic.
The same 'respect' that I espouse above relating to men/women, should be applied to homosexuals and lesbians, and they should confer the same upon heterosexuals. Then we can all exist alongside each other and enjoy life and each other.
Life is never simple - there're always going to be some problems. But, like a good motorcycle, we should never stop trying to improve things and enjoy the strengths and weaknesses, and let people pursue their own paths. I'm not 'into' anodised aluminium or tattoos, but I can accept that some people are.
Live and let live.

Bradl's comment was priceless.
David's question and this article were very insightful and timely. I understand why some people may be challenged by it and feel uncomfortable. That's allowed. People make racing - ALL people.

Total votes: 92

Rationally...

... men should be more threatened by lesbians. Gay men reduce the competition :)

BTW, were there ever any consequences for what Colin Edwards said on the subject at Donnington while full of painkillers and beer?

Total votes: 87

Motorcycling and homosexuality

Most people believe that motorcycling itself is a macho, straight male dominated thing. I know for a fact, in Australia at least and I suspect in most countries, that a very high proportion of the gay community are motorcyclists. I would say that here, per capita, more gay guys ride motorcycles than straight guys, to be honest.

I used to work at a boutique hotel that had a very gay friendly reputation here, including some of my work colleagues. Some of them rode bikes, but they all knew tonnes of motorcycle riders. There are even "gay bikey" bars in Melbourne. None of them (that I knew), however, were interested in racing. I suspect it started for them largely an image thing (think cafe racers), but they did enjoy riding. There are plenty of straight guys who started riding bikes for "the look" or "to be cool" too. The gap from motorcyclist to motorcycle racing fan would not be a hard one to bridge and bring in extra funds for the sport.

Total votes: 82

Irrelevant

and private. It should not be the "responsibility" of the media to pry into a persons sexuality regardless of gender, profession or position. Unfortunately certain sections of the tabloids revel in it, so it is forced into an issue.

I do understand and appreciate why the question was asked however, due to rumour and innuendo in certain sections of the press and the hot topic of the aforementioned US Athlete, but I do object to the openly hostile pro or against brigade (as the earlier poster is a good example) forcing the matter down my throat. Personally I don't give a damn what you do it's none of my business, so shut up and keep it private.

Does it really matter if a rider is hetero, homo, bi, monogomous, a hopeless virgin or extremely promiscuous? I'm with Stefan on this one. Only if it makes them faster! haha.

Total votes: 93

I believe that those who are

I believe that those who are outraged by the inclusion of the question about gay people and homophobia (and the longish narrative that David Emmett has written about it), is because of the fact that the subject seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. On reading the piece a couple of times I have found that the transition from all issues biking at Jerez to the issue of homophobia perhaps has been a bit abrupt and that has led to a disconnect between this aspect of the article with the rest of it. To a certain extent I would also believe that this ride into the homophobic domain was probably not necessary, but if it was something that David felt was good enough to pose as a question to the riders, I do not and cannot in any reasonable way sit in judgement about what motivated him to ask this question. Once we accept that he was well within his rights to ask this question (a fact borne out by the responsiveness of the riders to the question), then I suppose it follows logically that David is writing about something that he himself had posed as a question. His elaboration on the subject is necessary to enable his readers to understand as to why he felt the necessity for asking a question of this nature. I therefore believe that one need not denigrate or applaud either David's attitude or his belief in the necessity to make homosexuality more acceptable. Read this piece as you would any other piece that he writes and it becomes obvious that he as the author of the article can take the article in a direction that he deems logical. So all those who have been saying that they come to this site to read about MotoGP do not have to be so exasperated with this 'unusual' turn that one article has taken. Read it, if you have strong thoughts this way or that keep them to yourself, but if you have something meaningful to say, share it here. And please remember that this site is his domain and he is fully sovereign here and does not have to put up with bad attitude. That he does, is perhaps indication of how sensible a person he is.

Total votes: 75

Sexuality is irrelvant

Really think this is a bad move.

The whole concept of sexuality, homophobia and every other kind of potential victimisation is exactly why western society is currently in the mess its in.

When the racer comes first, its because they, and their team did what was needed to get over the line first. Whether they like having sex with men, women or donkeys is irrelevant. What bringing up the old 'bikers do gay bashing' theory does is to create a second teir where there is doubt in someone's ability due to some potential political issue.

If racer 2 always comes second, is it because he is gay? and if he is gay, does that mean he gets the special prize for being the first gay rider over the line?

Sport is about the only place left in western society where your ability out shines your political status, be it your gender, your sexuality, your race, your political views, but there is always some useful idiot trying to change that.

Its time we all agreed to one motto - lets get politics out of sport!

Total votes: 97

.....people still don't get it? Really?

There have been multiple posts explaining the fact that this article is about homophobia and not homosexuals in racing. And yet people are still commenting "What next! Politics?" and "I come here for racing news blah blah blah"

It IS an issue. If you don't care about it then don't read the article (though if you commented as above you probably didn't read it is the first place). For some reason commenters here think that they should agree with the content of EVERY article David writes and be interested. I don't care about every article in the news papar, so I don't read them all. I don't write in telling them to change their subject matter.

As far as umbrella girls go. Get rid of them for all I care, there are plenty of beautiful woman at the track already to look at. Plus the d%^&hebags that walk up and try to take pics up the girls skirts and directly at their breasts would have to find another cheap thrill (seriously, I witnessed this multiple times and wanted to punch them out, so disrespectful).

Total votes: 93

Subterfuge

To all those whom argue that they have no interest in sexuality and want 'only' bikes are missing the point fundamentally. This IS about bike racing. That is the point.

Total votes: 94

"Discuss homophobia" vs. "Are you gay?"

People commenting here (and twitter) seem to be divided into two camps, those who perceived the question as "What do you think, is there homophobia in the paddock?" and those who took it as "Are you gay?". Obviously the riders' answers didn't help convey the fact that the real question was the former. David himself recognizes that he didn't phrase it perfectly, which is what I also thought when I watched the press conference, to be honest.

However, I'm with David on this one. The issue (if there is one, and David firmly believes there is, so I trust him on that) needs to be addressed. As an outsider my opinion doesn't carry much weight, but it seems to me like the paddock is not just as homophobic as the rest of the society (and it's hard in such a multinational context to have in mind exactly "one" society), but is in fact worse. That is to be expected perhaps, as the majority of these people have been brought up in a male-dominated environment (the "macho" thing discussed above) and have below-average education. I'm not saying they are stupid, but I believe education helps one understand, tolerate and accept the "different". On the other hand, riders (20 years old on average, across all categories) always have the spotlight and they were faced with a difficult question yesterday. Their message was clear, "I'm not gay, but if someone else is, it's OK". It's good that Pandora's box has opened and there is discussion, but I'm afraid it will take more than those answers to register "change".

Even so, more power to the people that care about discriminations being made (and not "if someone's gay", as some people insist on interpreting David's question) and are ready to stick their neck out. In the long run the sport we all love can only become better once the atmosphere is more open to people with the right skills for the job, rather the politically correct sex, religion, sexuality, colour etc.

Total votes: 85

Wow...

I would say cowardice is the least of your vices David... Bravo for tackling an issue that concerns you and being courageous enough to ask the question in probably one of the most intimidating environments imaginable.

Being raised in a very machismo house and social environment, I admit to being somewhat prejudice in my very young youth. Mainly out of fear of my older brother's and friend's ridicule.

But, very shortly into the world on my own, I got thrown into a very gay-centric atmosphere (art school)... At first I was embarrassed, nervous, uncomfortable, whatever... but that lasted a very short while as I became more mature and confident in my own skin. After a while my initial un-comfort, to my personal pride, became a thing of the past. (and low and behold, some of my friends that I knew since I was a kid were actually gay).

My point is, yeah, I was a little surprised to see David write about a topic like this. But, if people are afraid to be who they are because of outdated social norms, and it is an issue that causes people to avoid a sport, or a career, then thank goodness there are people like David who start the process to help those people. And sometimes it takes a bit of a shock at first to get past it.

On the female side of things. Yes, I enjoy seeing the grid girls, and that is natural. BUT, I know when my wife is sitting next to me while watching a race, I always feel a little embarrassed when the TV shows the girls. I want her to respect my sport of choice, and that damages it a little I think. I am still torn between thoughts like: That mini-skirt is unnecessary, but hey it's her choice, and right, if she wants to be a model (that is a fine career). But, those girls surely are in the minority and if it makes most women feel uncomfortable, then get rid of it... if you can't find enough scantily clad women to look at in this internet age.....

Total votes: 76

Why are there no blacks?

I have lots of white, black, female, straight and homosexual friends, many of whom love motorcycle racing. Having lived in San Francisco, the home of the libs and awesome biking, and in London, spending my fair share of nights out in the West End and days riding and at the tracks, will afford one such breadth in friendships.

While I completely appreciate David's question and its timing, I find the fact that there are so few blacks in the MotoGP world even more statistically improbable. This is, after all, a sport of athleticism, intellect, talent...oh yes, and economic affluency.

My comments are not meant to distract from the topic at hand...it's just that I would not be the least bit surprised to see a couple riders in MotoGP that are gay...nor does it surprise me to see a female in Moto2. But it would truly catch my eye if I saw a team principle, owner or rider in the MotoGP paddock that was black. Why is that?

Okay, carry on.

Total votes: 76

Black riders

This is a very good point, and something I have also thought about a few times. There are some young black riders around - one in the Red Bull Rookies, and last year, a very bright young South African rider called Themba Khumalo in the precursor to the European Junior Cup - but their numbers are very limited.

Why is this? I think it is a combination of factors, cultural, socio-economic and including bigotry. For a start, you see few young black riders racing in junior series, which is where new riders come from. Go to a bike show in Europe, and the number of non-whites is always disproportionately low, so there appears to be a cultural difference, a lack of interest in motorcycles, in black communities in Europe. Then there are the socio-economic factors. As a general rule, and for a variety of historical reasons, black communities tend to be poorer than their white counterparts. Motorcycle racing, even at the amateur level, is an expensive business, so that reduces the number of potential riders from black communities as well. Because there are no black riders at the top level, there are no role models to attract young black riders into the sport.

There is also bigotry and racism. The conservatism of the paddock makes it a world which is averse to difference, and while it is nowhere near as overt as the homophobia and machismo in the paddock, there is also an undertone of racism in some quarters. It is certainly much less of a problem, given the welcome given to high-profile black motorcycle racing fans, such as Danny John-Jules, who is a regular visitor. The paddock is certainly more racially diverse than it is in terms of sexuality, so this is clearly a difference. I suppose that the difference is that you have to dig deep to unearth the latent racism, whereas the machismo, misogyny and homophobia is in plain view.

I do believe that this, too, is changing. James Stewart in Supercross has made a big difference here, raising the profile of black motorcyclists in general. Within five years, I would expect to see a number of black riders in the paddock, though whether their numbers will ever be a representative sample is open to question. Really, though, that is not what is required, what is needed is for people of all colors, nationalities, creeds, genders, sexual preferences, and political beliefs to regard motorcycle racing as an attractive sport, and as somewhere they feel welcome.

Total votes: 89

It must be hard to stand

Working in a paddock that is so rife with misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc.

I think those are easy whipping horses to make people feel politically correct and soothe their first world white middle age male consciences by blaming the lack of participation of any particular ethnic/racial/sexual group on oppression by this hugely silent passively oppressive majority.

The reality is that 10-20 years ago nearly all gay people had no desire to dedicate their lives and risking bodily injury to becoming a motorcycle world champion therefore today we do not have any gay top level riders. The same goes for women. I can feel confident in saying that most likely a woman will never be a MotoGP world champion. Misogynistic? No, just true. The body strength needed to ride one of these bikes at 100% for 45 minutes is just beyond the capability of nearly all women. The chance that that strength will be found in a female with all of the other crucial components (physical size, money, support, access, mental drive, luck, etc) reduce that probability down to near zero. So why would females (in large enough numbers to matter from a rider count perspective) care about spending a lot of time and effort on a sport that they will never be able to rise to the top in? I think they can have successes in the smaller classes, and was beaten to the line by female racers several times while racing 125s, but to use misogyny as an excuse for natural selection working through the requirements of physical characteristics is wrong.

Racial issues are different, at least in this country as we have a history that has put minorities at an economic disadvantage which with the way the world currently works makes them disadvantaged in nearly every sphere. However that has changed and is still changing but you cannot make social-economic corrections immediately. But that's America. What excuse does the rest of the world have for not having representative proportions of the population of minorities participating in all aspects of society? Maybe its because they don't want to. No big bad boogeyman, just the reality of cultural differences.

A good parallel is the number of top level of Spanish riders. Why? On a global basis are we nationally biased in our preference of rider or does Spain regard motorcycle racing as nearly the national sport and has an extensive program to find, groom, and promote talent? Or is it that Alberto Puig is a misogynistic, racial bigot? I don't think so. If a black gay guy that is contemplating sex change surgery could bring a title to Repsol and Spain I think he'd sign him.

Yes, most motorsports use women as eye candy. But look at any commercial and they also use sex to sell, usually in the form of attractive and scantily clad women. Most women's magazines are full of images of skinny, scantily clad and photoshopped women. In fact our entire society is obsessed with sex and attractive women. To point out umbrella and trophy women as a problem with our sport is just plain ridiculous. And what's wrong with admiring an attractive female form? Its worked for sculptors and painters for centuries. For all the women on the grid I say go get a Chippendales dancer to be your umbrella boy and appeal to your fan base in whatever way you want. It works for men so what better way to attract women to the sport then seeing a fast women being catered to by an attractive guy?

Rant off.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 82

Re: It must be hard

It is. The attitudes are immensely tedious to take in the long term. I won't be there forever. 

Total votes: 71

We need you there, mate.

To raise sometimes uncomfortable issues, challenge the received wisdom in what in some respects can seem a backward looking sport, and help build consensus and shape the sport we all love for a more successful, sustainable future. There's much still to be done. It's going to take time. Hang in there, David.

Total votes: 61

Rubbish Chris

No woman will ever win a MotoGP title? Are you Nostradamus?? Not strong enough? Fact is the human form, of both sexes, takes all kind of shapes. Are DP or JL built like Arnie Schwarzenegger? No, they're just fit & relatively small, like plenty of women. FFS there are female fighter pilots out there these days, and you gotta have all the physical attributes (& more maybe) to withstand the G forces these pilots go through. I could go on.....

It's mainly a historic cultural thing that is slowly changing. May it continue to do so.

Total votes: 82

Yep you are right. And I

Yep you are right. And I reckon the Williams sisters would kick Chris' ass too.

Total votes: 73

Gold

Gold Nick.

Total votes: 72

Yes but.

As I am not a tennis player I would hope they would make short work of me as would most amatuer male and female tennis players. However the more relevant question is how would they do against Nadal, Federer or any top male tennis player. I feel quite sure a female would lose. In fact both of the Willimas sisters lost individually to a 203th ranked man when he challenged them after they said they could beat any male outside the top 200. And Jimmy Conners beat Martina Navratilova even with rules changed to favor Martina.

>>Fact is the human form, of both sexes, takes all kind of shapes.

Did you even read my post or decide to blindly post a response? "The body strength needed to ride one of these bikes at 100% for 45 minutes is just beyond the capability of nearly all women. The chance that that strength will be found in a female with all of the other crucial components (physical size, money, support, access, mental drive, luck, etc) reduce that probability down to near zero."

>>No, they're just fit & relatively small, like plenty of women.

I think any GP rider is way beyond 'fit'. JL takes it even further than most and is likely as well conditioned as any athlete in the world. For any given sport a top level male at the peak of fitness has higher capabilities than a female in the same position. This is not opinion, it is fact. Its why male and female sports are segrated otherwise males would dominate.

>>FFS there are female fighter pilots out there these days, and you gotta have all the physical attributes (& more maybe) to withstand the G forces these pilots go through. I could go on.....

When MotoGP starts competing with fighter jets and G-suits you could go on. As they do not you can stop with the irrevelant comparisons.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 81

It took nerve to bring this up

First off:

"and I'd rather walk around in a thunderstorm with a hand-grenade with a cardboard pin in it strapped to my groin than fly one." <- WIN!!!!

And Bradl's comment was FUNNY.

And I think it's a valid question. You really have to work to offend me. I am on the fence on the grid girls. On one hand, OMG, I love to look at them. On the other, if we can get a bigger audience and more top level bikes on the grid and make the racing better by being more inclusive, I can find pictures of pretty girls elsewhere.

Total votes: 67

Thanks

It should be a non-issue, but it hasn't gotten there yet. Folks pointing out that it shouldn't be an issue is on the list of ways it's chipped away at. There will be frothing and grousing and protesting, and eventually, normalcy.

I'm heartened that for younger folks it seems to be getting closer to *actually* being a non-issue. Not just the riders quoted, but from what I hear from friends who work with teenagers these days, it is, as noted not "a thing".

It may not be on-track, but for those whose lives center on racing, the environment of the track and paddock is surely pertinent. Humans are humans, and utopia remains ever-distant, but I'd prefer one of my favorite places on Earth be reasonably welcoming to *all* my friends.

So... thanks, David.

Also, another vote for the grenade comment being the funniest thing I've read all week.

Total votes: 72

Good change of pace

Interestingly, I understand all sides in this discussion. Where I come from, it was, and probably still is ok to make sexist and homophobic jokes. I use to do the same because it was simply the norm, and didn't know (or didn't care to notice) anyone who was affected by such behavior.
Why did I stop?
The answer is one word: awereness. Once it was brought to my attention that I was creating a hostile environment, I stop. I then realize that a person's sexual orientation didn't alter my opinion of him/her. But, because I'm curious and generally intrigued by individuals' behavior, I always raise my eyebrow when I learn someone is gay. And I don't mind looking at attractive women, as long as they are consenting adults; whether they are or not is a whole different topic.
Because I'm not socially engaged in this topic, I'm usually a passive bystander when I witness prejudice of that sort, which is frankly horrible; I just have other pet peeves or battles to fight.
If anything, I applaude you for raising the issue. Most people change their behavior when they know it has a negative impact. Hopefully the MotogGP padock will become a more inviting place for all.

Total votes: 72

Let's start by getting rid of Umbrella girls

I watch for the racing & motorcycles. I'm exposed by the riders & bike to their sponsors. If I wanted to look at scantily clad women, I'll buy a Playboy or surf the internet.

On another note, I read something a few years ago from one of the Umbrella girls. She was a big racing fan and was excited to be at the paddock while doing her job. Why restrict it to just women that look good in lycra? Us middle aged couch racers would love a shot at holding an umbrella over a racer before the start!

Total votes: 67

Brilliant...

That is a damned brilliant idea. I'm in! Give us old guys some tight clothes, high heels... they can get some of those 2000 frames per second shots of us walking the pits. Posing for photos with the fans. Running from the champagne on the podium. Now THAT is gonna bring in the sponsors. The world needs to see my hairy white legs.

Total votes: 70

These topics

Race, sexuality, gender.

Why should any of these matter?

They shouldn't.

But there are those who make it so.

Why?

Fear.

Total votes: 65

Misguided Nostradamuses

Rather that say a woman will *never* be world champ, say it is highly unlikely that a woman will be world champion - to talk in 100% absolutes about the unknown future is misguided. Strength and fitness is a matter of training, diet, and genetics, and many women athletes would have the strength and fitness to be more than capable of wrangling a motogp machine for 45 minutes. finding a woman that *also* has the level of skill and training required, that's another matter entirely.

Oh and just a small grammar correction Mr Emmett :) you say 'homosexual or lesbian players' - you only need to say 'homosexual players'.

Total votes: 63

The issue

Gay motogp fan here. Idiotic comments here which don't separate sex from sexuality. I came here from Crash about a year or two ago when I got tired of the moderators not removing grossly offensive homophobic commentary from the forums. Bottom line: who you are is not private if you live in a society, which we all do, and you should not have to conceal who you are for fear of discrimination or hostility or worse. Given the thousands of people involved in motogp, from the factory workers to hospitality staff, this is an issue which will have affected some people involved in the sport and homophobia will eventually become a non-issue in this sport as it will in football and other sports. But that wont happen if everybody ignores the issue, which is what many posters here - heterosexual no doubt - want. Indirectly, I'm sure the technology in motogp owes something to the pioneering work in computing done by Alan Turing, who lost his job because he was gay and I think ended up committing suicide. As somebody else said here, motogp doesn't exist in a vacuum. Umbrella girls will eventually become a thing of the past too. If you don't like that, don't worry because you'll probably be dead before it happens. But it will happen at some point and when it does, homophobia will not be such a problem either in the sport.

Total votes: 61

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