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Rainbow Laces take the pitch for inclusive sport

British sport adds rainbows to the sports week palette.

Northampton Town v Grimsby Town - Sky Bet League Two Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Since November 22, playing fields and teams across the United Kingdom have added colors to the traditional palette. Pitches, armbands, the laces of soccer and rugby boots and even corner flags and markings have been adorned in rainbows in a determined call to tackle anti-LGBTQ bias in sport.

This week marks the sixth year of the Rainbow Laces Campaign. Organized by Stonewall UK, the campaign is named for something simple but important — The rainbow laces on the shoes of competition, yet the influence toward inclusion only starts there.

Every level of British association soccer (aka football for the non-Yanks), from the intense spotlight of the Premier League to the down-ladder clubs, took part. The lower-division English Football League made their entire weekend fixture a seemingly endless rainbow. Clubs wore their support on the sleeves, and in some cases, everywhere else.

Even those who fans love to hate are on board. Referees laced up, and one of their number was named to a special team. Professional official Ryan T Atkin, soccer’s first out gay pro referee, was named as one of eleven Stonewall Sports Champions by the organization. Others joining him include race walker Tom Bosworth, endurance motorsports ace Charlie Martin, and former Grand Tour road-racing cyclist now-cycling journalist Philippa York.

Other sports joined in as well. This upcoming weekend round of Premiership Rugby will feature every team sporting rainbow laces. Scottish Rugby used the moment to aid inclusive rugby team Caledonian Thebans’ effort to bring the 2022 Bingham Cup international gay rugby championship tournament to Scotland.

Scottish Rugby’s top players lace up to help bring the 2022 Bingham Cup to Scotland
SNS Group/SRU

The loudest expression of the opening weekend came from Scottish professional darts standout Peter Wright at the PDC Players Championship in Minehead, England. Wright’s signature mohawk went full rainbow as did his outfit for the tournament. Unfortunately, the man known as “Snake Bite” got bitten in the first round of the 64-player field.