English footballers launch campaign to fight homophobia
The English Premier League said on Wednesday that it is happy for players to wear rainbow-coloured laces this weekend as part of a campaign against homophobia in football.
Gay rights charity Stonewall is behind the initiative and has sent the striped laces to all 134 professional clubs in England and Scotland.
Although the Premier League was not consulted about the Right Behind Gay Footballers campaign, it said it supported the initiative.
“The underlying message behind this campaign is a good one, indeed we and our clubs have worked hard with government and other stakeholders to ensure the whole equalities agenda is something we fully are aware of and engaged in,” said a Premier League spokesman.
“However, we were not consulted about this particular campaign. Had we been involved earlier in the process we could have worked with Stonewall to consider things like boot deals, the use of particular betting partners, and other issues.
“It is up to individual clubs and players to decide whether they support this campaign.”
The campaign has received vocal backing from Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton, who revealed last year that he has a gay uncle.
“Join the rainbow laces movement. Sexuality in sport should not be an issue in the 21st century,” he wrote on Twitter earlier this week.
There are no known openly gay footballers playing professionally in either England or Scotland.
Former United States winger Robbie Rogers retired in February, citing negative reactions towards his homosexuality, before reversing his decision and signing for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The most high-profile openly gay footballer in England was Justin Fashanu. The former England Under-21 international came out in 1990, before taking his life eight years later at the age of 37.