“The Bergamo Lions have made a video full of double meanings but the message is clear: NO to homophobia!” read a message on the team’s official website.
In a video directed by Federico De Musso and released last week, members of the prominent Bergamo-based team are filmed in their changing rooms and out on the pitch.
At first the message of the clip is unclear with team members appearing to mock gay stereotypes. Then the message “I’m not gay” appears, followed by “Or even heterosexual”.
In the final scene one single player reveals himself to be gay, followed by the final message: “But we’ll all kick your ass”.
The idea for the film came from Lions player Pietro Bailo, who was inspired by a conversation with gay Italian actor and comic Carlo Gabardini who has spoken out against homophobia in Italy.
In October 2013 Gabardini sent a letter to La Repubblica reacting to the suicide of a 21-year-old boy from Rome who was bullied for being gay, Gabardini said: “If my non-news can save a boy from suicide then I’ll say it: I’m gay.”
Explaining the idea behind the video on the team’s website, Bailo said: “A team from American football – a sport which in everyone’s mind is macho, strong, and for tough men – is spreading a simple message: no matter who you love, on the field and in the locker room, everyone is equal.”
In an interview with La Repubblica, linesman Vito Carminati said: “We’re a compact, united and supportive team and we would have no problem playing alongside [a gay sportsman] or playing against a gay sportsman from another team.
“On the contrary, we are fighting this narrow-minded mentality towards diversity that still exists in our country.
“Homophobia is a serious problem, even if lots [of people] don’t want to recognize it. And it can push the weakest to the most extreme of actions. We’re saying ‘no.’”
The video is part of a campaign by Le Cose Cambiano, an organization fighting homophobia in Italy.
“Boys are the most sensitive to this type of message and the fact that it comes from a sports institution amplifies the force of it, considering the hostility that the sporting world normally has towards diversity,” said Chiara Reali, a campaigner from the organization.
This isn't the first video in support of gay rights to hit headlines in Italy this year.
In a video published in February, Italian children are asked a string of love-related questions including: “Do you think love between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, exists?”
While some stumble on the controversial question – “My father says they’re sick,” is one boy’s response – the children broadly speak out in support of gay couples.