'Cricket getting behind Rainbow Laces will have real impact'
Sam Chambers has been out in Leicestershire cricket since his teens, but Steven Davies' story in 2011 and the ECB's Rainbow Laces support have helped to make him feel proud
Last Updated: 12/08/19 8:43am
As the ECB's Rainbow Laces weekend continues, Sam Chambers explains how a "groundbreaking" moment gave him a welcome role model.
This weekend, the ECB is again backing Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign, which is helping to 'make sport everyone's game' by raising awareness around LGBT+ inclusion.
There will be visible support for the initiative at Vitality Blast and Kia Super League matches, while players, officials, administrators, broadcasters and fans at all levels of cricket are being invited to get involved by wearing the laces and talking about the game's welcoming culture.
So what's cricket like for LGBT+ people? Sky Sports is giving athletes, coaches and others in sport who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender the opportunity to share their experiences, discuss the challenges they face, and give their views on the progress that's being made on inclusion.
Our series of cricket stories continues with Sam, who found his confidence in the Leicestershire leagues at an early age...
Sam Chambers (Newtown Linford CC, Leicester)
I've been playing adult league cricket since I was 16, including for a time in the Leicestershire ECB Premier Division, so I've had 13 years of participating in the sport at a decent level.
In all that time, I've always been out and have never hidden the fact that I'm gay from my team-mates, my opponents, or anyone I come into contact with when playing sport.
However, I did recently join a new club - we compete in Division 1 of the Leicestershire and Rutland League - so going from somewhere where I was out to another club where it wasn't common knowledge was a huge change for me.
I remember having a drink with the captain after training and he asked if the baby in my WhatsApp picture was my son. I said it wasn't, and he followed up with 'have you got a missus?'
I thought 'well, this is as good a time as any to tell him'. He later admitted that he'd never known a gay person before, so he was very careful of what to say - but he's been great about it, as have all the lads.
I'm pretty laid back about it though and happy to have a joke, as long as it's a bit tongue in cheek and not malicious. I've been lucky to never experience much homophobia whilst playing sport - only the occasional remark - and find people have always been accepting. It's been positive for me, although I get that for a professional cricketer who was gay or bisexual and perhaps struggling with that, it would be a different experience.
I get disheartened that there's still such a fear of coming out... my experience has been almost all positive.
A careless comment
I often play against people who may or may not know that I'm gay, but they simply play me as they would any other opponent - there's no sledging of a personal level, which is as it should be.
The only negatives I do have are comments that people make when you first come out to them, like 'oh, you don't look gay' or 'I would never have guessed that'. I'm not sure how I should look or act for them... I'm just me.
One of the few negatives I had was a few years ago at training. A team-mate who's still a good mate of mine commented on what I was wearing when I showed up for training. He shouted in front of everyone 'oh my god, how gay do you look?'
In that instant, I felt about two inches tall and really didn't know what to say, with about 15 lads all sat around laughing. I've never called him out on it, but it still sticks with me as being one of the worst experiences I've had.
It's great to see the ECB taking part in Rainbow Laces, and marching at Pride in London too. It means a lot to me as a gay man playing cricket.
When I see any sportsman wearing rainbow laces, it does make me feel proud as well as supported. I think any kind of representation that the LGBT community receives from industries such as sport is always going to have a positive effect. Sport is a huge part of people's lives in this country so for them to get behind campaigns such as Rainbow Laces will have a real impact.
It seems obvious to say, but the cricketer Steve Davies has been a huge role model to me. I remember when he came out back in 2011. I saw a headline saying 'Flower supports Davies coming out'. England were playing in the World Cup in India at the time and I initially assumed (wrongly) that he'd been added to the touring party!
It just goes to show how unexpected and groundbreaking it was. Even for me as a cricketer who is gay, I didn't think a professional player would ever come out. I remember reading how Davies came out to coach Andy Flower and his team captain Andrew Strauss, and that they helped to phone round every member of the England squad on their wicketkeeper's behalf, so that he didn't have to do it all himself.
All his team-mates were supportive - it really made me proud to be a cricket player. Until that point, I'd felt like the only gay person to have ever played cricket.
'Out gay footballer would be inspiring'
Out sportsmen were very rare through my teenage years. To have seen someone have the bravery to come out, when I myself was coming to terms with my sexuality, would have been inspiring. Maybe life back then would have made more sense. Dealing with your emotions as a teenager is difficult enough without feeling like you're the only sport-loving gay person that exists, so any time I did see a gay person that was involved in sport, I was made to feel more 'normal'.
I'm a huge football fan too. I understand how cricket is different to football but I would find it incredibly inspiring to see an out gay player in the Premier League or the EFL. When I read stories like the recent one of the 'Gay Footballer' Twitter account, I always get disheartened that there's still such a fear of coming out, as I have to say my experience has been almost all positive.
I've been in many dressing rooms with an entirely straight team apart from me, and have felt confident to be myself in that dressing room. I hope in some way my experiences help others to realise that it's OK to be gay and maybe people's reactions aren't going to be something to fear.
'Just be yourself'
If I could speak one-on-one to a person in sport who's maybe struggling to deal with their sexuality, I'd say that it's not as bad as you might think. People are accepting and supportive of you, and you shouldn't feel you have to be a particular way just to please others.
If being in a same-sex relationship is what you want and something that would make you happy, it really doesn't matter if you're good at kicking, hitting, or throwing a ball. Anyone can take up sport, and anyone can be gay - they are not exclusive clubs.
The ECB is activating Rainbow Laces in domestic T20 games this weekend - watch the Vitality Blast and Kia Super League action live on Sky Sports Cricket.