Everton have announced that they will take part in a campaign against homophobia in football (and presumably everywhere else) by wearing rainbow laces on their boots during this weekend's match against West Ham. The campaign was started by gay rights charity Stonewall and Everton's online betting partner Paddy Power with the tongue in cheek message of "Right behind gay footballers."
The Blues’ captain Phil Jagielka and other members of the Everton first-team will be wearing rainbow laces in their boots for this weekend’s Premier League fixture against West Ham at Upton Park, to demonstrate their solidarity for fellow professionals who are gay. [...]
Speaking about wearing the rainbow laces, Everton and England defender Phil Jagielka said: “For me and the rest of the lads at Everton a player’s sexuality is not important, but their ability on the pitch is.
“We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind at Everton and the whole Club works hard to get that message out to the fans.”
The rainbow laces have been sent to all 134 professional clubs in the U.K. and so far Everton are the only Premier League side to formally announce their participation. QPR's Joey Barton helped launch the initiative and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker has said he will wear the laces on this weekend's show.
The Premier League says they officially support the campaign, though they weren't consulted on it before it began. From the AFP:
"The underlying message behind this campaign is a good one, indeed we and our clubs have worked hard with government and other stakeholders to ensure the whole equalities agenda is something we fully are aware of and engaged in," said a Premier League spokesman.
"However, we were not consulted about this particular campaign. Had we been involved earlier in the process we could have worked with Stonewall to consider things like boot deals, the use of particular betting partners, and other issues.
"It is up to individual clubs and players to decide whether they support this campaign."
Sadly, the campaign's alignment with a bookmaker that is always chasing publicity, might prevent clubs and players from participating do their own contractual obligations to Paddy Power's competitors. Hopefully next time Stonewall will align itself with the Premier League and bypass any betting firm murkiness.