LGBT activists in the United Kingdom are asking professional soccer players in the U.K. and Scotland to take a stand against homophobia in sport — by donning rainbow laces in their cleats.
British LGBT advocacy group Stonewall sent rainbow laces to all the teams in the U.K. Premier League and Football League as well as 42 teams in the Scottish Professional Football League, according to The Guardian.
Stonewall teamed up with publishing company PaddyPower to launch the "Right Behind Gay Footballers" campaign, and is encouraging players to wear the rainbow laces on the field Saturday and Sunday.
"It's time for football clubs and players to step up and make a visible statement against homophobia in our national game," said Laura Doughty, Stonewall's deputy chief executive, in a press release. "By wearing rainbow laces, players will send a message of support to gay players and can begin to drag football into the 21st century."
The Guardian notes that there are no openly gay footballers in any major professional league in the U.K. or Ireland. Robbie Rogers, an American who spent several seasons as a winger for England's Leeds United team, announced he was gay in February, at the same time he announced his retirement from the sport. At the time, Rogers said the "pack mentality" of football clubs wouldn't allow him to be out and on the field.
But in May, Rogers formally signed on as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team, making him the first openly gay male athlete in Major League Soccer and the first male athlete to actively compete in an American team sport after publicly acknowledging that he is gay. Veteran NBA center Jason Collins came out as gay in April, but has yet to be drafted onto a new team after being released by the Washington Wizards.