An English rugby team played a special Pride game to promote LGBTI-inclusivity on and off the field.
Rugby League’s Keighley Cougars brought a festival vibe to a match disputed on 14 July.
Based in West Yorkshire, the team celebrated the LGBTI movement’s 50th anniversary and supported the fight against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in what the club believes is a first for the Rugby Football League (RFL) in the UK.
On the field, the Cougars also sported a specially-designed rainbow kit chosen by their supporters.
Keighley Cougars played a Pride game
The game against West Wales Raiders was preceded by a drag performance and attracted several people of all age, sexualities and gender identities.
The Cougars won the match by 50-18.
‘It was a resounding success,’ spokesperson for the team, Lisa Beckwith-Kinard, told GSN.
‘We will make sure this event grows from here,’ she also added.
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Cracking atmosphere for #CougarPride day as Keighley Cougars take on West Wales Raiders in League 1. Fantastic idea, and so many happy faces young and old here to celebrate 50 years of the pride movement. Updates of the game on BBC Radio Leeds from 3pm #bbcrl
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Co-owner Ryan O’Neill and his Brazillian husband Kaue Garcia attended the event. Special guests, including the UK’s only openly gay RFL player, Keegan Hirst, also were in attendance.
‘We want to show our community that everyone is welcome at Cougar Park, and to share the passion we have for the club which has been through some tough times,’ he said.
‘We want to be the club to watch, the one challenging perceptions of the sport, and the one that sets the standards and gets everyone talking like Cougarmania did 30 years ago,’ he then added.
In the 1990s, the team attracted the attention of the national press and politicians for its liberal marketing campaign.
Rugby is breaking down social barriers
Cougar Pride took place three months after an anti-LGBTI controversy sparked by Australian rugby player Israel Folau.
Folau, 30, a devout Christian, posted an image to social media in April 2019 that said ‘hell awaits homosexuals’. He refused to apologize for the statement, saying he was merely voicing his Christian beliefs.
‘Rugby League has been breaking down social barriers for more than a hundred years and this is another important milestone,’ David Connor, RFL equality and diversity lead, said ahead of the game.
He then added: ‘We pride ourselves on genuinely being a sport for all and Keighley are to be congratulated for actively demonstrating the inclusivity of our game.’