Cheeky Fun Or ’Sexualized Innuendo?’
A British LGBT rights group is criticizing a campaign that aims to eliminate homophobia from sports, which is spearheaded by a straight soccer star, because the group’s officials say the campaign’s name is "sexualized innuendo," the British newspaper the Mirror reports.
On Tuesday it was reported that British soccer star Joey Barton teamed up with gay rights group Stonewall (a British LGBT rights group) and Irish bookmaker Paddy Power in order to make it easier for gay athletes to come out in sports. Members of the campaign sent rainbow laces to all of the 92 Premier League and Football League clubs and urged players to wear them this weekend to show support for gay rights and the campaign, "Right Behind Gay Players."
Officials from gay rights group Football v Homophobia have taken issue with the campaign’s name, calling it "sexualized innuendo." The group has withdrawn its support for the campaign after organizers refused to change the name.
"Our discomfort is with the reliance on sexualized innuendo and stereotypes about gay men," the group said in a statement. "We feel it is incongruous to run a campaign aiming to change football culture whilst using language which reinforces the very stereotypes and caricatures that, in the long term, ensure that homophobia persists."
Despite the group’s criticisms, a spokesman for Stonewall told the Mirror that support for the campaign has been high.
"We teamed up with Paddy Power for this campaign precisely because they talked the language of players and fans. The slogan is risque and tongue in cheek but we are proud that it is engaging with fans and players and that they are taking a positive stand," the spokesman said. "The entire campaign has been overwhelmingly positively received and we have been extremely pleased with the response. Players and fans are getting the message that homophobic abuse is unacceptable."
A spokesman for Paddy Power also commented on the backlash from "Football v Homophobia."
"We’ve liaised with Stonewall throughout, used their insight and sought their sign off on the activity we’ve carried out. We’ve also had support for the campaign and the activity from the Gay Footballers’ Support Network," the spokesman said, according to the Mirror. "We did speak to Football v Homophobia about the campaign and we were hugely appreciative of their thoughts on it. We absolutely listened to their point of view and adjusted some of our creative based on their feedback."
Barton, who is leading the Right Behind Gay Footballers campaign, wore rainbow laces last weekend and told the British newspaper the Metro that the sports world should be more accepting of out athletes.
"The bureaucrats have been guilty of not taking a tough enough stance to make this issue go away. We live in quite a liberal democracy and it’s incredible we’re even having this conversation in 2013," the athlete said. "The modern-day footballer is quite open-minded I think. People’s sexuality has become less and less of an issue. Hopefully a large number of players will get behind the campaign."
He also said he wants other players to "join the rainbow lace movement" and "sexuality in sport should not be an issue in the 21st century."
"To any gay footballers, we have to say: ’We will support you.’ It’s okay within society to be who you want to be but not quite so yet in football," Barton said.
Watch Barton speak about the campaign in the clip below: