On Thursday, June 9, three top Irish athletes were on board to help launch Aviva Ireland’s #LaceUpWithPride campaign. The annual initiative in honour of Pride month encourages sportspeople to wear rainbow laces on their boots or runners to demonstrate support for the LGBTQ+ community while also raising funds for youth charity BeLonG To.
Exeter-bound bisexual rugby player Jack Dunne was one of the three athletes in attendance. The former Leinster second row made history last June when he came out on the BBC LGBT Sports Podcast, making him the only out active professional player being paid by the IRFU at the time.
Speaking on the emergence of more queer male role models in team sports, Dunne commented: “There have been lots of male professional athletes coming out across the world. You have Josh Cavallo and Jake Daniels in football. Then in America, you have guys like Carl Nassib and RK Russell. Ten or 15 years ago there was no one.”
He added: “I know it’s still only single digits in team sports but it is changing fast and I would be really optimistic that in ten years it would appear to reflect society more.”
— AVIVA (@AVIVAIRELAND) June 10, 2022
Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team and Birmingham City footballer Jamie Finn was the second openly queer athlete in attendance. With the situation so different in female sports, Finn said: “We are lucky in that sense, it is accepted. No one bats an eyelid, that’s who you are. I think we just need to be consistent in bringing it home to people that it is ok.”
Although LGBTQ+ visibility in female sports is not an issue, Finn still explained, “People might look up to me so it is very important to be part of this campaign.”
Shamrock Rovers and Republic of Ireland footballer Jack Byrne is an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and used the opportunity to share a message of solidarity with queer athletes.
“No matter what job you are in or the walk of life you are in, it’s important that you can be yourself and you can basically be accepted in any working environment,” he said.
“It’s very rare being in a dressing room with 30 lads and everyone is the same. There are always lads coming from different walks of life and most of the time in the dressing room it’s acceptable to be who you are.”
He also praised 17-year-old Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels for his brave decision to come out publicly, and added that he felt the League of Ireland would embrace and support any queer male player.
While Aviva Ireland’s #LaceUpWithPride campaign runs throughout June, organisers particularly encourage athletes to don their rainbow laces on Wednesday, June 29 to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community. They are also giving those who participate a chance to win two tickets to every international rugby and soccer game that takes place in the Aviva Stadium in 2023. To enter, simply share a photo of your rainbow laces on social media with the #LaceUpWithPride.
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