• "I think it’s awesome and a really exciting initiative": Casey Conway. Picture: (c) 2016. Matt Brockie for BLK Sport. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
As a former athlete and a gay Aboriginal man, Casey Conway knows all too well the importance of campaigns like #RainbowLaces.
Philip Ly

1 Apr 2016 - 11:17 AM  UPDATED 1 Apr 2016 - 11:36 AM

Former rugby league player and gay Aboriginal man Casey Conway says breaking down gender stereotypes is key in the fight against homophobia in sports.

“To see a social media campaign come out to shed a positive light and be accepting of inclusivity is great,” Conway says. 

"From what I do know from meeting people and hearing stories at whatever level of sport they played, they felt isolation. I definitely felt that isolation."

His comments come as teams across four football codes and netball don rainbow laces in a 'Rainbow Round' of sport, starting on Thursday.

A study commissioned from Bingham Cup Sydney and Repucom revealed that 80 per cent of 3000 respondents experienced homophobia in sport, and a further 70 per cent felt youth team sports are not safe and supportive of LGB people.

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Cowboys' veteran Johnathan Thurston entered the conversation earlier in the week by encouraging sport communities to take a stand and help boot out the problem in a short video, when the hashtag #RainbowLaces began trending on social media.

Thurston says homophobia is still a bit of a problem and "the only thing that should matter in sport is how people play on the field."

Conway says having one of the greatest players of all time supporting the campaign will help people take notice of the issue and bring the topic in to the spotlight.

He says gay and lesbian people often feel isolated in sports, which stops them from being able to enjoy something everyone else is able to.

“I think it’s awesome and a really exciting initiative to take in sport because there are so many LGBTI people that not only love sport, but love watching sport ... so definitely feel more inclusive as a fan or a player,” he says.

“Creating a sporting environment where athletes are happy to come out, especially high profile ones, could be really good role models for young people,” he says.

Australian-owned sportswear company, SKINS has helped bring the initiative to Australia, after beginning in the UK three years ago.

Teams supporting the #RainbowLaces initiative are the North Queensland Cowboys, Penrith Panthers, Brisbane Lions, GWS Giants, NSW Swifts, Sydney FC, the Brumbies and Waratahs.

Groups who have endorsed the initiative are Professional Footballers Australia, Rugby league Players’ Association, Rugby Union Players Association and Australian Rugby Union.