Rainbow laces look to give homophobia the boot

This week has seen the launch of a campaign by Stonewall to get professional footballers to show their support for gay players by wearing rainbow-coloured laces.

Rainbow laces look to give homophobia the boot

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September 20th, 2013

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The ‘Right Behind Gay Footballers’ campaign aims to eradicate homophobia within football, and Stonewall have sent all 134 professional clubs rainbow-coloured laces for their players to wear. However, it has come under heavy fire from the Premier League, the public and other gay rights groups – not because they don’t support the campaign, but because of the way it has been publicised.

The campaign name itself screams inappropriate innuendo, and the choice of partners is questionable. Stonewall have approached Paddy Power in an attempt to associate with a brand that they feel is able to talk the language of both the players and the fans. The only issue here is that Paddy Power have a chequered history when it comes to advertising. Their advert featuring blind footballers kicking a cat rather than a ball landed them in hot water, and then there’s the infamous stunt when Arsenal Striker Nicklas Bendtner showed off some fetching PP boxers while playing for Denmark, which got him an £80,000 fine and a one-match ban. Better ask for some good odds on Arsenal to win the league, Nicklas.

The issue is that, whilst Paddy Power can speak the language of the football fan, is that what’s needed? This is a serious issue, and one that the words ‘Football Banter’ should arguably come nowhere near. There are too many instances of abuse, both racist and homophobic, that simply get classed as ‘banter’. Even in the modern game there are examples of horrendous racial abuse, with players resorting to walking off the pitch in protest.

Therefore is it any wonder that gay players don’t want to come out? Justin Fashanu tragically committed suicide in 1997, a few years after and not unrelated to having announced he was gay. Robbie Rogers is the only current openly gay professional footballer, thankfully his talent hasn’t been wasted, and he is now playing for LA Galaxy in the USA.

It’s refreshing to see that players have openly said that gay players would be welcomed in the dressing room, and I’m sure the majority of players wouldn’t have an issue. I think part of the problem lies in the attitude of the fans towards gay players, and the players’ fear of what abuse would get thrown at them. The FA must also look at themselves in the mirror. An organisation that only promoted a women to their board in 2012 can hardly be called progressive, and to state that;

“We were not consulted about this particular campaign. Had we been involved earlier in the process, we could have worked with Stonewall…” is ridiculous, as they should have been proactive in looking at the issue to begin with, not reacting to people trying to solve it.

Personally I don’t see how being a homosexual in any way impacts your ability to play football, it really shouldn’t be an issue. I for one hope that campaigns such as the rainbow laces one day helps players feel comfortable being who they are, and not have to hide away in fear of ridicule – and more importantly, hope that being a ‘Gay Footballer’ isn’t even considered an issue anymore.

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