Kobe Bryant’s death motivated Brazilian footballers to stand up to homophobia

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PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 19: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers adjusts his jersey during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on February 19, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Lakers 102-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The basketball player who tragically died earlier this year had No 24 shirt for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team – a number that carries a lot of stigma in Brazil for its association with gay men. It comes from Jogo do bicho (‘The animal game’), a popular and illegal lottery in Brazil run by the mob. Each of the numbers up to 25 are represented by an animal, with the number 24 being a deer. Deer has an idiomatic meaning of a gay man and the Portuguese equivalent of this word is often used as a homophobic slur. Now, in Kobe Bryant’s name, the football magazine Corner started campaigns to end the stigma and take back the number 24 which Brazilian footballers are afraid to wear not to turn themselves into targets for homophobic jokes. The campaign picked up speed when it got the backing of several of Brazil’s best-known journalists, with one tweeting: “More than 700 professional players and no one has the courage to wear a certain shirt.”

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