The iconic campaign, run by LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, is back with a fresh new look and a new focus on its goals

BY NIC CROSARA

For the sixth year, Stonewall is launching its award-winning Rainbow Laces campaign in partnership with TeamPride. Rainbow Laces has become a symbol of LGBTQI people in sport with 12 million+ people engaging every year. It’s always moving to see elite athletes showing their laces off on the pitch. The campaign has created great moves in raising awareness of the barriers that LGBTQI people face when it comes to participating in sports and fitness. There’s still a way to go.

Research shows that many LGBTQI people still feel unsafe at sporting events and fitness facilities. That’s why this year, Rainbow Laces is back with a re-energised message and vision. The campaign calls for clubs, fans, coaches and athletes to “Lace up and speak up” by starting essential conversations needed to deliver the structural and cultural changes needed to ensure the safety and inclusion of LGBQTI people within this industry.

This year’s campaign comes after a year of record-breaking visibility for LGBTQI athletes, from Josh Cavallo’s coming out video to an estimate of at least 186 openly LGBTQI athletes taking part in Tokyo Olympics. Whilst this year has certainly seen much progress, Stonewall’s own research found out that 43% of LGBTQI people think public sporting events aren’t a welcoming place for them. 

This has motivated Stonewall and TeamPride to ask the sporting world to level up on inclusion. As well as promoting people to wear their distinctive Rainbow Laces, the campaign is providing coaches, clubs and athletes with information, conversation prompts and commitments to help them create environments where all lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people can thrive. 

Iconic brands such as the Premier League, Sky Sports, TikTok and Unilever have joined the call for everyone to “Lace up and speak up” and more than one million laces are already in circulation. It’s exciting to see the charity shift its focus from visibility to commitment and taking steps to inform, educate and inspire change.

Steve Smith, Executive Director of Content at Sky Sports said: “We’re passionate about delivering the drama of live sport and telling stories about the people who make the moments happen. We continue to proudly support Rainbow Laces as a member of Team Pride, raising awareness about LGBTQ+ inclusion on and off the field and encouraging active allyship.” 

Vicky Free, Head of Global Marketing at adidas said: “We believe sport belongs to all, and all belong in sport – and are highly committed to the LGBTQIA+ community. Being an active part of TeamPride is incredibly important to us. This close collaboration helps us both share ideas and insights that inform how adidas shows up in support and celebration of our LGBTQIA+ community around the world – whether that’s at specific moments such as Pride, a sustained dialogue with employees or showing allyship to athlete partners.”

In 2018, Amazin LeThi became the first openly out Asian athlete to appear in the campaign and is a Stonewall Sports Champion. Amazin’s hopes for LGBTQI equality in sport are: “Sport should be welcoming to everyone and no one should feel they should hide their sexuality or gender identity. Sharing my story and living authentically and unapologetically gives me the freedom to realise that my emotions are real, that how I feel inside matters and that I’m worthy of owning the space that I’m in. I want my story to provide a positive message for any Asian athlete who wants to be openly out in sports and to remind them they are not alone.”

Throughout the global events of the last two years, the message of how important health and fitness is has really been driven home. The sporting world thrives when people come together. So I’m pleased to have learned so much about the action being taken to make it so that LGBTQI people and QPOC can be included within the world of sport and fitness. We’ve all got work to do *rolls up sleeves*. 

@niccrosara

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