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This is why Stonewall’s iconic Rainbow Laces are needed now more than ever

Lily Wakefield November 26, 2020
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rainbow laces campaign

Athlete Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain ties a pair of rainbow shoelaces which signify support for LGBT+ rights while attending a press conference at the Main Press Centre during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 11, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Ker Robertson/Getty)

Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, which championed LGBT+ inclusion in sport, will look a little different this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many stadiums closed and many queer athletes isolated from their communities, but the charity is determined to make the campaign more inclusive than ever.

This year, the fifth annual Rainbow Laces campaign will not only feature the original rainbow design, but also lesbian, bi, pan, ace, trans and non-binary flag laces, allowing athletes to support specific identities under the LGBT+ umbrella.

According to Stonewall: “2020 hasn’t only highlighted inequalities for LGBT+ people, with events across the globe showing the impact of structural racism across society, including within the LGBT+ community, and throughout sport.”

With this in mind, the charity will “shine a light on the importance of allyship and community” by lifting up queer athletes of colour, and allowing them to share their experiences of LGBT-inclusive sport.

In one story, Jo Chattoo, co-founder of Queer Kickabout, described their experience of being a queer footballer of colour.

They said: “It is really noticeable that women’s football is incredibly white compared to the men’s game, from grassroots leagues all the way up to national teams. It is clear that women of colour face more barriers into football.

“Add onto this the additional layer of being a queer person – and it gets tricky.

“I’m often the only brown face in a white space, and being the only one within a group that navigates the world in a certain way can feel isolating and tiring.

“That’s why it felt extra important to create an alternative space, as the sort of spaces I wanted to play football in didn’t exist.”

With a million pairs of laces having already been snapped up, Maria Munir, associate director of community engagement at Stonewall said: “We know that the campaign and all of the hard work being done by clubs, teams and managers across the country is making a real difference.

“Our research found that two thirds (66 per cent) of fans feel more confident that reports of anti-LGBT+ language at live sport fixtures will be taken seriously after seeing the Rainbow Laces campaign. We’ve seen a steady growth in the proportion of fans who would report anti-LGBT abuse online or in stadiums too.”

They continued: “During a year which has exacerbated challenges for LGBT+ communities, sport has become even more important to keep up spirits and provide a vital support system so we can continue to be there for one another.

“That’s why we’re so pleased to be running Rainbow Laces this year, with a real focus on the importance of community and allyship, including in support of LGBT+ people of colour, disabled people, and trans people. 

“While the campaign is sure to look a bit different this year, we’re encouraging everyone to lace up with us. From workouts in your flat, to weekly quizzes with your lacrosse team, we’re showing up for ourselves and one another.

“Now is the time for every club, team, and individual, from elite to grassroots and community sport, to show their support for all LGBT+ people and work towards truly making sport everyone’s game.”

Related topics: homophobia in football, homophobia in sport, LGBT athletes, Queer Kickabout, rainbow laces, Stonewall

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