Queens Park Rangers soccer player Joey Barton is among the sportsmen to lend their vocal support to Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces (#rainbowlaces) campaign.
In an interview with the Metro newspaper, Barton – who was also a high-profile supporter of the campaign last year – again spoke out against homophobia in soccer.
‘I hope that more people join in this year: at the end of the day, the more people who wear the laces, the more chance we have of raising awareness and tackling the issue of homophobia.’
UK-based LGB equal rights charity Stonewall has teamed up with bookmakers Paddy Power for the campaign, and sent out a pair of rainbow laces to every professional soccer play in England and Scotland. They are asking every player to wear the laces for fixtures taking place this coming weekend: 13-14 September.
‘Everyone knows there is an issue in football,’ said Barton. ‘The stats say that there must be homosexual players across our professional game and the lads supporting the campaign are breaking barriers down so that people can feel comfortable enough to come out in the sport and kick out homophobia in football.’
Barton has long been regarded one of English football’s more controversial figures. The 32-year-old has twice been convicted on charges of violence and served time in prison in 2008 for common assault. Career-wise, he has played for Manchester City, Newcastle, England, and Marseille, before his current stint with Queens Park Rangers.
In 2012, he took part in a BBC documentary about homophobia in football, revealing that he had a gay uncle and was a supporter of LGBT rights. Earlier this year, he won the ‘Celebrity Straight Ally of the Year’ award at the Out In The City and g3 LGBT awards.
Asked if he thought that a gay player might come out in the UK soon, Barton said: ‘I don’t know is the honest answer, but I certainly feel that the campaign has made positive strides so that a player would be comfortable coming out. Providing we can keep moving forward, raising awareness and breaking down old stereotypes, then I think the campaign will have been another success.’
Other footballers to have spoken out in support of the campaign include Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta. The Metro newspaper has also thrown its support behind the initiative, including rainbow laces within its front-page logo today (8 September). Many of the newspapers advertisers also ran adverts pledging support for the campaign, including well-known brands Starbucks, Smirnoff, Vodafone, Virgin Media, Morrisons, Halifax and the Post Office, among others.
‘We’re delighted Metro are backing the campaign and dedicating an entire edition to tackling homophobia in football,’ said Ruth Hunt, Stonewall chief executive. ‘With their help we can get more people than ever involved in the campaign.’