Anti-homophobia rainbow campaign hit by controversy

Thu Sep 19, 2013 9:29pm EDT
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By Philip O'Connor

(Reuters) - - An anti-homophobia campaign encouraging British soccer players to wear rainbow-colored laces this weekend has run into controversy before the boots are even tied up.

Stonewall, a gay rights charity, joined forces with Irish bookmaker Paddy Power to send the laces to 5,000 footballers around the country.

Premier League champions Manchester United are, according to the BBC, among clubs who have chosen not to wear them while anti-homophobia organization Football v Homophobia (FvH) criticized the initiative.

"It is incongruous to run a campaign aiming to change football culture whilst using language which reinforces the very stereotypes and caricatures that, in the long term, ensure that homophobia persists," FvH said in a statement on Thursday.

The organization said expressions like "Right Behind Gay Footballers" strengthened "stereotypes that ensure homophobia exists".

Power said the lack of openly gay footballers in Britain did not reflect the reality.

"There's 5,000 professional footballers in the UK and none of them are openly gay - statistically, that's almost impossible," Paddy Power told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"UK government statistics suggest that six percent of people are gay, so we worked out that the odds on no footballer being gay are a quadragintillion to one. That's a one with 123 zeros after it - it's a big number, and it's very, very unlikely that there are no gay players."   Continued...