Sheffield Eagles make history this weekend when they become the first professional sports team to wear an anti-homophobia slogan.
The specially commissioned kit sees the message “Homophobia: Tackle it!” printed on the chest and the Eagles decision to make Sunday’s game against the Widnes Vikings a chance to push the issue has drawn widespread praise, particularly from former Australian international Ian Roberts and Crusaders star Gareth Thomas.
“I think Sheffield’s decision to make this kind of statement is incredible and they deserve a huge amount of credit,” said Roberts. “I’ve never heard of any team, in any sport anywhere in the world doing something like this before and I think it’s absolutely fantastic.
“Sheffield are directly addressing a topic that many people still regard as taboo, it’s something people don’t like to talk about so it’s great to see a team taking the step to address that issue.
“This type of initiative has been a long time coming and it’s great to see a Rugby League club taking the first step and hopefully now this will help any of the young kids out there who look for role models in the sporting world to see that there are people who will support them regardless of their sexuality.”
Since announcing his homosexuality, Thomas has become the inspiration for a Hollywood movie fronted by Mickey Rourke and the former British and Irish Lions captain believes that sport can continue to help break down the barriers around homosexuality especially in the lead up to the 2012 London Olympics.
“I am proud to be a Patron of LGBT History Month and Schools Out,” said Thomas. “They have organised and spearheaded the sponsorship of the ‘Homophobia: Tackle It!” team shirts that Sheffield Eagles will wear on Sunday. They have brought together the Rugby League, Pride Sports, the NUT, UCU and NASUWT to sponsor the shirts.
Several guests will be welcomed by the Eagles, including Lynne Featherstone MP (Equalities Minister at the Home Office) and Scott Haining (Actor best known for his role in BBC TV’s Waterloo Road).
Representatives from the Rugby Football League, LGBT History Month and Pride Sports will be in attendance at Bramhall Lane.