Schools OUT UK Comments on Football Campaign Slogan

Schools OUT UK has come out against the campaign slogan ‘Right behind gay Footballers’.

The strapline is used on the literature for a campaign to make football safe for gay players and involves encouraging all the professional teams’ players to use rainbow laces over a weekend to show solidarity. It was launched by Paddy Power and Stonewall and has the support of the Gay Footballers Network.

Football versus Homophobia, Pride Sport and  Schools OUT UK however are concerned that the innuendo in the slogan reflects stereotypes about gay men that homophobic bullies tend to use.

Here is the Schools OUT UK statement:

So Paddy Power don’t care what team you play for, and are enabling all footballers to wear rainbow laces in an attempt to challenge homophobia in Football.

That is exciting and an interesting move. However putting on the laces is just a symbolic first step.

It is crucial that – if you decide to lace up your boots with rainbows – you make a commitment to engage in behaviour and use language that celebrates LGBT people, that finds ways to change the culture behind homophobic banter in the changing rooms, and that demands effective stewarding in the terraces that challenges homophobic chanting.

Rugby League has done loads of leg work in this area and has built slowly and effectively a culture that challenges homophobia and transphobia.   We endorse their statement that –

“Education is an essential part of this and is the most important tool for promoting a zero tolerance approach towards discrimination, prejudice and abuse, while also celebrating diversity in Rugby League and in the wider community.”

So ‘Right behind Gay Footballers’, the strap line of this campaign, raises our eyebrows.

As educators, we are acutely aware that modelling is a crucial element in education.  A phrase that immediately brings to mind the language used to bully and humiliate boys in schools up and down the country cannot be used in a positive way.  It can only undermine the message the bootlaces are supposed to send. Moreover, ‘Right behind gay footballers’ means something very different to a confident thirty something working in a London office, than it does to a cowering schoolboy trapped by bullies in a provincial school changing room.

Schools OUT UK’s strap line is Educate OUT Prejudice. We urge teachers to use methods and lessons that usualise LGBT people and experiences in all their diversity to challenge and demolish stereotypes.

To quote Audre Lorde “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”.

So put on the laces by all means, but there must be substance as well as symbol.  Without copious work, this is all inconsequential and cosmetic. We need to see the clubs, players, stewards, celebrate the reality of LGBT people, challenge the banter in dressing rooms and the terraces and effect real change.


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