It doesn’t seem that long ago since I wrote my first post for 2017 and mentioned the Rainbow Round of Sport that is on this coming weekend, April 6-9.
To give a brief recap, the Rainbow Round of Sport aims to highlight the issue of LGBTI prejudice in sport, by showing support for athletes, fans, volunteers and others involved in sport who may be LGBTI by wearing #RainbowLaces.
Our local partners are LGBTI advocacy group, Pride in Sport, who last year devised a Pride in Sport Index that benchmarks and measures how major sports are doing in terms of inclusivity. To their credit, the major professional leagues of Australian Rules, round-ball football, rugby league, rugby union and netball have all done so.
Last year, we experienced a reticence to adopt #RainbowLaces from the professional sports. I thought it was due to commercial considerations and SKINS involvement, even though there is absolutely no branding on the laces.
However, this year, I’ve been in Australia for almost seven weeks and I have a good feel for the context in which the reticence is occurring.
Throughout the period I’ve been here, SKINS has been involved in many events related to LGBTI prejudice. There was the Mardi Gras Fair Day, the marvellous Mardi Gras Parade, and the launch of #RainbowLaces at a spectacular Gala Dinner generously hosted by Dentons Lawyers in conjunction with the launch of their own workplace inclusivity programme.
On the one hand, CEOs of iconic Aussie brands, such as Qantas, have called on the government to settle the issue of marriage equality as it’s a distraction; AirBnB has just launched, with other big corporates including Qantas, a marriage equality campaign entitled Until We All Belong.
On the other hand, ultra conservative politicians have told the government – which holds a majority of 1, and of which they are members – that any change would bring the government to a premature end. The same conservative politicians, one of whom is a Cabinet Minister, have also told the corporate CEOs to get on with running their businesses and butt-out of having a view on social policy!
It goes without saying that I reject the notion that business people shouldn’t have or express a view on important issues of social (or other) policy. It is tantamount to saying they or their business shouldn’t have values, and that goes against everything we stand for as a brand.
For SKINS, two things differentiate us from our competitors. First, we do have a superior product! J Second, and just as importantly, if we were not a values-based performance sportswear brand, we’d be just another performance sportswear brand.
And that returns me to the professional sports and #RainbowLaces.
Signing-on to the Pride in Sport Index is the easy part. Having values, and really living them, is the next step.
The reluctance – almost inertia – of the professional sporting codes is the very reason we have #RainbowLaces in the first place: very few professional sports, and very few professional sportsmen and women, are comfortable in talking about issues of LGBTI prejudice.
Yet we know it exists. Research conducted two years ago leaves us in no doubt.
The fact that some professional sports or clubs opt not to take part in a public show of support for LGBTI athletes, fans and volunteers by wearing #RainbowLaces may have a commercial consideration, but frankly, it’s more likely to be cultural.
It makes me more determined to keep banging-on about these issues and supporting the work of Pride in Sport. I believe, SKINS believes, that who you are, what you are, how you identify, shouldn’t be an inhibitor to participation in, or enjoyment of, sport.
What is simply awesome about the Rainbow Round, is that at least 200,000 people from grassroots and community teams around the country think the same way as we do.
That’s how many free pairs of laces have been distributed via our partners Medibank, rebel, rebelfit and Amart Sports.
Community sport, the ‘weekend warriors’ around the country, are literally voting with their #RainbowLaces.
What you will see this weekend are the likes of Melbourne Harlequin rugby player Matty V, James McGrath, football fan from Perth, Kariah White and Cortnee Vine both W-League players currently playing in the Women’s NPL, the great Irish rower Gearoid Towey, the LGBTQI Supporter Group of AFL club Adelaide Crows, and Matt Janssen and Jason Ball of Aussie Rules fame,
Demographics alone tell us that politicians and professional sports alike should take note. Values might not drive what they do, but the bottom-line will eventually.
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The Rainbow Round of Sport takes place from April 6-9. Lace-up with #RainbowLaces and share your images and thoughts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Hashtags: #RainbowLaces, #prideinsport, #rise-up, #rros
A big thank you and bouquets to the North Queensland Cowboys, Johnathan Thurston, Penrith Panthers, Robbie Farah, Andrew Fifita; Essendon Bombers, GWS Giants; ACT Brumbies, Australian Rugby Union; Western Sydney Wanderers, Sydney FC, Alex Wilkinson, Rostyn Griffiths, Michelle Heyman, Kyah Simon, the Victorian Women’s National Premier League; NSW Swifts, Sharni Layton; the professional players’ associations of Australian Rules, Football, Rugby League and Rugby Union; plus Dentons Lawyers, Medibank, rebel, rebelfit and Amart Sports.
Want your own #RainbowLaces? All the pairs for teams have gone now, but you may still be able to pick up a pair for free at any Medibank, Rebel Sport or Amart Sports stores – all while stocks last.