Harry Styles of pop sensation One Direction surprised fans by showing his solidarity for Michael Sam, the first openly-gay player in the NFL, who has been axed by his team.
Styles, 20, took to the stage for a concert wearing Sam's number 96 shirt for the St. Louis Rams - showing his support for the player who has been caught at the centre of a huge row in the States this week.
ESPN ran a piece talking about Sam's showering habits with the team, suggesting that he did not share the communal showers with his team-mates after training sessions.
The US media giant was blasted for its rather crass treatment of the subject, relying as it did on anonymous sources and speculation instead of dealing with the issue in a direct and sensitive manner. ESPN subsequently apologised.
Styles's show of support was well-timed, then, and went down well with fans across the world - including Sam himself, who Tweeted his thanks.
Fans around the world praised Styles for his show of solidarity...
...though it also, depressingly, fuelled the rumours about the singer's own sexuality, showing just how far there is to go before people across the world accept each other for what they are.
The support and positive PR didn't do Sam any good, incidentally: on Saturday, he was axed from the Rams' squad ("a footballing decision", his coach explained) and will not feature for the team in the upcoming season.
The sport will have to wait at least another season before it sees an openly-gay player.
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- Harry Styles
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