Sport commentator threatens to ‘take action’ against LGBT+ activist who called him out for not backing Rainbow Laces campaign
BT Sport commentator Austin Healey threatened to “take action” against an LGBT+ activist who questioned his apparent reluctance to support a campaign for LGBT+ inclusion in sport.
Healey, a former rugby union player, was asked by diversity campaigner Jack Duncan why he hadn’t used his platform to recognise Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.
All twelve Premiership Rugby clubs wore the laces over the weekend with all matches shown live on BT Sport, a fact that went unacknowledged by Healey this year as in previous years gone by.
“Rainbow Laces has been mentioned in commentary every season for the last five or six seasons, yet Austin Healey has never offered a word of support in his co-commentary position,” Duncan noted on Twitter.
“He attacked me last season for pointing this out, so once again Austin, do you support it?”
This didn’t go down well with Healey, who appeared to challenge the activist via direct message.
“You stating that I attacked you in your recent tweet is defamation and unfounded and unfair,” he said, according to a screenshot shared by Duncan.
“It is not my job to mention anything other than what I see on the pitch. I don’t push my beliefs on either [social media] or TV but my values are strongly against all forms of discrimination. You should remove your tweet and apologise publicly.”
Duncan replied that he would only do so when the commentator made a public statement in support of LGBT+ people in rugby. “Everyone else seems to manage it effortlessly despite their ‘job’, why can’t you?” he asked pointedly.
The situation only escalated from there, culminating in Healey threatening to “take action” if Duncan didn’t retract his statement.
“Whilst I don’t want to take action against you if you decide not to retract I’ll be left [with] little choice,” he wrote, insisting he has no prejudice against “anyone or any group of people”.
“I have four daughters who have been upset by your allegations and quite frankly hatred towards me and our family values,” he added.
Gets worse and worse. All this to avoid simply stating “yeah I support LGBTQ people in rugby”? pic.twitter.com/isLcWk6Elv
— Jack Duncan??️? (@JackDunc1) December 6, 2020
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The dispute quickly polarised sports fans online and attracted the attention of Guardian columnist Owen Jones, who condemned Healey for his reaction.
“What were you thinking?” he asked.
Austin, it’s really unacceptable to threaten to sue LGBTQ people challenging you to use your platform to support LGBTQ rights. You could instead choose to state your position instead of intimidating LGBTQ people like this. What were you thinking?
— Owen Jones ? (@OwenJones84) December 6, 2020
Healey later confirmed that he “absolutely” supports the campaign and maintains he is owed an apology from the activist. PinkNews has reached out to both for comment.