Everton FC has become the first Premier League club to embrace a new campaign to kick homophobia out of soccer by sporting rainbow-colored laces, according to the Daily Mail.
Gay rights charity Stonewall and bookmakers Paddy Power joined forces to launch the “Right Behind Gay Footballers” campaign, and have sent out 5,000 sets of the laces to all professional clubs in England, Scotland and Wales.
Everton captain Phil Jagielka and many of his teammates have embraced the idea and will be wearing the new laces for this weekend’s Premier League fixture against West Ham United.
Jagielka told the club’s official website:
For me and the rest of the lads at Everton a player’s sexuality is not important, but their ability on the pitch is.No one should feel that they can’t be themselves – on or off the pitch – so that is why we are supporting this initiative.
The Premier League has left it up to clubs and individuals to decide if they want to back the campaign or not, and have expressed disappointment that they were not approached by the campaign directly.
A Premier League spokesman said:
The underlying message behind this campaign is a good one, indeed we and our clubs have worked hard with government and other stakeholders to ensure the whole equalities agenda is something we fully are aware of and engaged in.
However, we were not consulted about this particular campaign. Had we been involved earlier in the process we could have worked with Stonewall to consider things like boot deals, the use of particular betting partners, and other issues.