November’s #RainbowLaces Campaign organized by Stonewall UK to help bring awareness and education toward the issues that LGBTI athletes face in sports was highly successful. Attracting support from professional athletes and sports teams, from all over the world, gay and non-gay alike. Including Sonya DeVille of the WWE, New Zealand Black’s Rugby Team, and the Premier League, including Manchester United.

As expected of course, not everybody was onboard. Manchester United alone received more than 43,000 homophobic comments on their social media posts supporting #RainbowLaces. Homophobic comments could be found in just about every post from these organizations, including appearances by the usual tropes “Adam and Eve, not Steve” and blah blah blah.

Of course, all this homophobia strongly validates the purpose of #RainbowLaces and why LGBTI support must be visible. Such as the Watford FC’s giant rainbow flag that took over an entire section of their bleachers and the All Blacks swift rainbow jerseys as well as the LGBTI Pride Nights that are happening with a much more frequent consistency. It is clear that there is a lot of work to be done, which is why these campaigns like #RainbowLaces exist.

In response of the backlash, Director of Stonewall UK Kristy Clark said…

“It’s great to see so many sports associations across the UK proudly championing LGBT equality as part of our Rainbow Laces campaign. The backlash from a small minority online is a reminder of just how vital it is for all of us to do our bit to help make sport everyone’s game.

This year’s campaign is about giving people confidence to be active allies and show their visible support for LGBT people, either on or off the pitch. It’s been heartening to see that allyship in action, particularly on social media, where we’ve seen countless messages from people who aren’t LGBT calling out abuse from fellow fans and highlighting why their attitudes have no place in sport. “

 In addition, a spokesperson for Arsenal made a statement on behalf of the club…

“We are very proud to be supporting the Rainbow Laces campaign and do a great deal of work to promote equality across all levels of the game. As Facebook is the platform where these views are being shared, we are ensuring that all of our ’Arsenal for Everyone’ initiatives and messages, plus ways to report anti-LGBT language on a match day, are posted via this platform.”

In the end, the message of hate was received and promptly discarded as we continue to move forward.

Dirk Smith