He may be a newcomer to the Real Salt Lake squad, but Jonny Steele has come through at just the right moment. The Northern Irish soccer player landed his spot on the Salt Lake squad earlier this year and has already played more than 20 games, scoring eight goals – several in the last few minutes of the game. This solid midfielder is also an avid advocate for individuality and attended his first Pride Festival last summer in Salt Lake City. We spoke with him about his experiences in Utah and what the environment would be like for gays in Major League Soccer.
Why did you decide to check out the Pride Festival last summer?
One of my friends told me about the festival. I was pretty new to Salt Lake and I had a day off, so we decided to go down and check it out.
Was it your first Pride Festival?
Yes, it was my first festival and an eyeopener. But I had fun and got a chance to mix in with the festival and grab a few Bud Lights!
You tweeted about attending the festival. Were you nervous to tweet about going to a Pride Festival?
I tweet most things I do daily. I wasn’t at all nervous about it. I do the things that I want to do, not what others expect or assume I should do. That’s one of the reasons I went down there — to see people express themselves without any worries, just being themselves.
How open is the environment in MLS?
I’m not sure how open the environment is in MLS. But I’m sure the lads would just embrace a player the same as anyone else. You’re judged on your play, not your sexuality.
Do you have any gay friends or family members?
Yeah, I have a lot of very good gay friends that I’m in constant contact. I also talk to them about how they’re judged and peoples’ perspectives. I’ve seen and heard stories of small-minded people. It’s 2012 and time to be you, not what others want you to be! I’ve been out many times with them all and never felt uncomfortable in any environment or club we went to.
Do you have any advice for your young gay fans?
Not really. I just say be yourself and the people that love you will always love you and stand by your side. Life is not based on sexuality. At the end of the day, who has the right to judge others?