Sports stars show their support for Sheffield Eagles
Sheffield Eagles have received high profile support from the most famous gay stars in world sport including Rugby League stars Ian Roberts and Gareth Thomas, former NBA Star John Amaechi and English cricketer Steven Davies as they become the first ever sports club in the UK to wear a shirt brandishing an anti-homophobia slogan this weekend.
All four stars led the way in their respective sports, with Amaechi becoming the first openly gay NBA player while Roberts became the first openly gay Rugby player when he announced his sexuality with Thomas following in his steps in December 2009.
Steven Davies recently became the first openly gay cricketer and all four men have been quick to show their support for the Eagles in their efforts to support the RFL’s anti-homophobia ‘Tackle It!’ campaign.“I think Sheffield’s decision to make this kind of statement is incredible and they deserve a huge amount of credit,” said former Australian international 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.”
Former NBA star and one of Britain’s most high-profile gay stars John Amaechi has also given his support to the Eagles.
“I am really proud to see Sheffield Eagles take such a proactive step to break stereotypes and embrace their entire fan base,” said Amaechi. “It says something truly positive that it is Rugby out of all our top sports and a team based in Sheffield in particular - a city I am proud to say I lived in - that are leading the way."
"I am really proud to be a part of a sport that is moving forward so pro-actively on the equality agenda,” said Gareth Thomas. “I would like to congratulate the Sheffield Eagles for leading the way in promoting work to tackle homophobia and transphobia in Rugby League and in sport.
"I think the world of sport is moving forward, especially after the ‘coming out’ of another two elite sportsmen this last month; Graeme Obree, the cyclist and Steve Davies the England cricketer. I wish them and others who are thinking of talking about their sexuality every support and warmest wishes. It is still not easy but it is liberating.”
Since coming out, Gareth 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 sexual orientation 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.
"There is still much work for them to do in the build up to the Olympics next year but I know they are busy working behind the scenes to ensure that the biggest sporting event that our country has seen for many years will be a success for everyone, of every sexuality; from elite athletes, to local amateur teams and the thousands of volunteers who will be support the event. Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans people will be participating in 2012 in every way!"
Cricketer Steven Davies has also shown his support for the Eagles. “Personally, Gareth Thomas was a real inspiration to me,” he said. “He made me believe it would be possible for me to do the same and anything that helps even one person should be applauded.
“There may be added pressures in sports as the number of people that have come out is so small so it's great that Rugby League is taking this step.”