“God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” – An analysis of online responses to the EPL’s support of Rainbow Laces

Authors: Hansen, M., Parry, K.D., Kavanagh, E. and Anderson, E.

Start date: 4 September 2019

Although Anderson, Magrath & Bullingham (2016) have shown that there have been a number of gay men come out in professional sport, very few male association footballers have openly come out during their playing career. This finding is despite the fact that sporting institutions are now more accepting of sexual minorities. Although it is claimed that sport and politics do not mix (Butterworth 2014), sporting organisations are increasingly speaking out on social issues. Analysis of the response to such campaigns provides a greater understanding of the degree to which sports fans and the sporting media are supportive of inclusion efforts.

During the months of November and December 2018 the English Premier League (EPL) supported Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign across their games (https://www.premierleague.com/RainbowLaces) in order to promote equality and diversity and particularly to support LGBT+ people in football and the wider community. This campaign received much social media commentary, much of it negative. While social media platforms are now one of the primary methods of fan-team/sport interaction, this space remains largely unregulated. This study aims to further understand online discourses surrounding LGBT+ inclusion.

A netnographic approach to analysis was taken, collecting replies to four tweets from the EPL Twitter account. Thematic analysis of 986 comments reveals the extent of homophobic discourse on social media. Key themes to emerge from this analysis include religious justifications for homophobic sentiments, deflecting attention away from LGBT+ rights, and claims to the apolitical nature of football.

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