David Gough, Gaelic Football’s first openly-gay referee, has condemned the Gaelic Athletic Association’s (GAA) decision to prevent Mayo players from wearing rainbow colour numbers on their jerseys.
Last week, the GAA took the controversial decision to deny Mayo’s request to wear rainbow-coloured numbers on their jerseys, saying that jerseys should be “sacrosanct”. They also said that rainbow-coloured numbers are difficult for match officials and spectators to read. This has caused backlash from players and fans alike.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One last Saturday, Gough said: “It’s an abhorrent decision by the GAA. I saw their statement and it was an unwise choice of words.”
Fair play to @MayoGAA for trying something so progressive and empowering but clearly the lads at HQ are still stuck in the dark ages unless there’s money to be made. #Mayo #LGBTQ #gaa @officialgaa ?❤️?️? https://t.co/doiwjqEWZ0 pic.twitter.com/u9loBfty44
— Miriam Kennedy (@Miriam_Kennedy) December 1, 2022
Mayo had put forward a request to wear the special edition jerseys in support of the LGBTQ+ community during the 2023 Allianz Football League season. The request came after their charity partner former Mayo footballer Peadar Gardiner and Project Manager of Mindspace Mayo, suggested the move as a show of solidarity and support for the LGBTQ+ community, but the application was denied by officials at Croke Park.
The team wore rainbow laces in 2020’s All-Ireland semi-final, and Gough pointed out that GAA players have worn jerseys supporting various foundations before therefore the request from Mayo should have been granted, “So precedent had been set beforehand and it’s just strange to see that they’re singling out the LGBTQ+ community.”
Finished up @DublinPride weekend wearing rainbow laces from @AVIVAIRELAND in Croke Park for the AI QF between Kerry and Mayo. Shout out to @O13Padraig who wore his too! @SportingPrideIE @gaelicplayers
? @SportsfilePOM pic.twitter.com/KNIfc12Uhs
— David Gough (@goughd4) June 27, 2022
Gough also emphasised that team sponsors likely would have supported the move since eir, AIB, SuperValu, Bord Gáis, and Centra have supported Pride events across Ireland. Adding, “AIB and Bord Gáis are two of the greatest supporters of Pride within Dublin and I’ve been part of the most recent SuperValu campaign so it would be interesting to see how the sponsors take this ban.”
This is not the first time that the GAA has prohibited clothing that supports the LGBTQ+ community. In the lead-up to the same-sex marriage referendum in 2015, Gough was prohibited from wearing a rainbow wristband as he officiated a league fixture between Dublin and Tyrone. At the time, the referee was told that Croke Park was not the place to make “political gestures”. Gough has since emphasised that supporting the LGBTQ+ community is not a political statement, rather, it’s showing support for a human rights movement.
A spokesman from the GAA has stated that the organisation is not anti-LGBTQ+ and that players are welcome to wear rainbow bootlaces or armbands if they wish.
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