Rainbow Laces: Wales legend Jess Fishlock says sport is crucial platform for social change

Reading and Wales' Jess Fishlock stresses importance of education through sport after being named as a new Stonewall Sport Champion, an ambassadorial role on the charity's Rainbow Laces campaign, supported by Sky Sports

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Reading and Wales midfielder Jess Fishlock, one of the new Stonewall Sport Champions, says it is important for all people to call out acts of discrimination, if society is to progress

The importance of sport to people's lives makes it a pivotal platform to help bring about social change, says Wales legend Jess Fishlock.

As her country's most capped international player of all time, the 33-year-old has vast experience in the game and was awarded an MBE two years ago for her services to not just football but also the LGBT+ community.

Fishlock, currently on loan at Reading from Seattle-based NWSL club OL Reign, has just added a new title to her resume - that of Stonewall Sport Champion, making her one of 12 ambassadors on the charity's Rainbow Laces campaign.

Jess Fishlock, Reading FC, Women's Super League
Image: Fishlock has helped Reading into the top half of the WSL table after eight games

The midfielder is playing in the Women's Super League for the first time and says she has been energised by the outpouring of support from across sport for the annual Rainbow Laces activation.

"So many people have got behind it and it's fabulous to see," Fishlock told Sky Sports News.

"As Sport Champions, we now plan to do more throughout the entire year with regards to the visibility of Rainbow Laces and create more awareness so that when the two weeks comes round again, it gets bigger and better."

READING, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: A Rainbow coloured sock worn by Jess Fishlock of Reading during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Reading Women and Bristol City Women at Madejski Stadium on December 6, 2020 in Reading, England. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Image: The midfielder wore a rainbow-banded sock in last weekend's 1-1 draw at home to Bristol City

Since coming out publicly several years ago, Fishlock has continued to emphasise the importance of education through sport.

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She has recently been helping to promote an animated short film about a team of young footballers learning what it means to be LGBT+, contributing a film herself which includes her story of telling friends and family she is gay, and how football was the environment where she felt most comfortable to be herself.

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In a special personal short film, Fishlock looks back on her career, how being gay has influenced her life, and why the animation 'LaGolda - Game Changer' resonates with her

"I've got those experiences of being in LGBT+ in sport - some good, some bad. I feel like I do have that emotional connection to it, so I'm well aware of what needs to be changed, and what work needs to go into it.

"I'm a firm believer in visibility, education and awareness. That's what will drive change in this country with regards to the LGBT+ community, diversity and inclusion."

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LGBT+ people and allies are speaking up in support of equality and inclusion in sport - as a member of TeamPride, Sky Sports is proud to amplify their voices

With the WSL's profile continuing to rise rapidly, and an increasing number of LGBT+ role models emerging in women's sport more generally, Fishlock feels athletes, coaches, officials, and administrators all have a responsibility to lead by example.

"I don't think we all truly realise how important sport is. We use it as a platform because it's massive but it happens throughout society - we need to be better at supporting it, educating ourselves on inclusion, and to be better at calling it out if you see or hear something that you know isn't right.

"It's important to speak out and let people know if they're behaving in a way that's inappropriate or wrong. We need to use platforms like sport to push that message."

Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign. If you'd like to help inspire others in sport by sharing your own story of being LGBT+ or an ally, please contact us here.

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