It’s almost poetic that on the weekend after the North London Derby, a fixture filled with hate and vitriol, Arsenal will once again participate in Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign and remind us that hatred towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming individuals has no place in sports or society.
The campaign sends rainbow laces to players across Britain and encourages them to be worn in matches from November 24th through December 3rd to show that football is a safe and welcoming place for all fans and players. Arsenal’s participation in the program is part of its larger “Arsenal for Everyone” campaign that aims to combat inequality and discrimination and to promote diversity and inclusion across the board.
There are some things that transcend club loyalty and sports fandom. This is one of them. This graphic comes from Stonewall’s website, and the numbers speak for themselves:
At the risk of sounding preachy (which I’ll do again later on, so bear with me), take a minute to think if you’ve ever heard homophobic abuse at a sporting event (or in your life). How did it make you feel? Now try to imagine how it made any LBGTQ person who heard it feel. Did you do anything about it? Could you have done anything about it? Speaking up is difficult, but that shouldn’t stop us. It’s encouraging to see teams and athletes leading the way on something like this, because it makes it easier for the rest of us to speak up as well.
Without over-congratulating Arsenal (because, let’s face it, everyone can do better), they seem to be committed to the “Arsenal for Everyone” campaign. Last month, they opened a sensory room so children with autism and other sensory challenges can enjoy the match in a less stressful environment.
They celebrated the campaign before/during the Brighton match with a reminder that homophobic chants are offensive, not banter. Brighton and Hove has one of the largest LGBTQ communities in Britain, and its supporters had been targeted with homophobic and discriminatory chants earlier in the season.
A few years back, in support of this same campaign, Arsenal put out this video, which for my money, is as good as any highlight.
Arsenal’s commitment to the “Arsenal for Everyone” campaign makes all of us here at TSF proud to be Gooners. So please take some time and check out all the different things the club does. I’ll admit, I didn’t know about all of it - and it’s really great.
But let’s not get complacent. Arsenal (and us Gooners) can find ways to do more. There hasn’t been an openly gay player in the Premier League. Let’s do our part so that if that player ever comes to Arsenal (or is already with the club), the Emirates is a welcoming and safe space.
Remember, homophobia and discrimination have no place in sports. If you hear it or see it, call it out. Tell people that it’s not okay. If we all do a little, pretty soon that little bit becomes a lot.