Homophobia in sports is a rampant issue, one that's resulted in most gay professional athletes coming out after they've retired or not at all. Luckily, a quickly spreading initiative called Rainbow Laces aims to change that. Based on a similar campaign in England, the Australian "Rainbow Round of Sport" is picking up steam as more and more big-name athletes use the laces.
Matt Toomua of the ACT Brumbies rugby team explained to The Age that "it's about creating an environment where if we did have a gay player come through, they would be comfortable in their skin."
"A slip of the tongue might seem innocent enough, but it actually does have a significant impact on someone," he continued. "The fact most gay players come out after they've retired says something [about sports]. There's a reason for that. If that's the case, we want to create an environment where that's not what's happening. It's just creating a culture where people can be who they are."
Clearly his teammate David Pocock feels the same way:
If there's one thing that's absolutely true about locker room cultures in American pro sports, it's that they are largely not a welcoming environment to gay players. Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL, said his stint with the St. Louis Rams in 2014 "was tough." If it wasn't direct disdain for him, it was disdain for the distraction his presence caused, which was built up largely by the media. "I got some, like, 'Oh, here comes the distraction. How are we going to deal with it?' " he said, and although his eventual cut from the team may have had nothing to do with his sexuality, the zoo that happened because of his admission probably didn't help him perform at the highest level.
Hopefully, campaigns like Rainbow Laces make it into American sports in a meaningful way so that it doesn't become such a big deal whenever a player comes out. In an ideal world, an athlete's sexuality affects his team and the media in the same way that eye color does: not at all.
Cover image: David Pocock via Twitter