Interview with Lewis Daly

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Rainbow Laces

‘People judge me on the way I perform – that’s the way it should be’

In part three of Sport Liverpool’s four-part series of interviews with LGBTQ+ athletes for this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign, AU vice-president Matt Addison spoke to Lewis Daly, the captain of the men’s water polo team.

As well as studying anatomy and human biology, Lewis, who is gay, also represents Great Britain in his sport.

Lewis explains: “I was a good swimmer in junior school and one evening my mum worked late and forced me to go to this extra-curricular activity because she couldn’t pick me up.

“At first, I actually really hated it to be honest and I didn’t want to go. After a while, I realised that I was actually quite good at it and it snowballed from there.

“I got scouted to play for the City of Manchester and that was after only a few months of playing. I got invited to regional trials, and then national trials, and I've been part of the Great Britain setup since about 16 years old.”

The Rainbow Laces campaign is something that is very close to his heart – but Lewis hasn’t always been aware of it.

He says: “I was only made aware of the Rainbow Laces campaign when I first started university. I love the campaign every year – it’s really important. It makes you feel extremely welcome and accepted.

“It was actually my first year when we rocked up to the pool at Leeds Beckett, and the captain said, ‘put these laces on’. I was like, ‘what the heck is going on here?’, but then he told me about it.

“It’s obviously about the diversity and inclusivity of LGBTQI in sport, and from that moment I thought it was really cool.

“At first, I was reluctant to do it, as bad as it sounds, because I didn’t know how the team would react, but everyone was open and reacted fantastically. When I came out as gay, everyone was like, ‘no problem’ – it hasn’t changed anyone’s perceptions of me since.

“The polo team’s been fantastic. They don’t judge me on what I do outside the pool – they judge me on the way I play water polo, which I think is the way it should be.”

When it comes to equality, Lewis believes sport has a significant role in changing people’s feelings towards the issue.

He explains: “Sport has a massive role. The Rainbow Laces campaign was in football a few months ago and you see people commenting.

“One game they changed the corner flags to Rainbow Flags, and I saw on Facebook that ‘this is totally unnecessary; we’re forcing down people’s throats’, but I think that is why we need it to happen.

“There’s definitely going to be players in every single sport that aren’t comfortable with themselves yet, or with coming out, for fear of not being accepted. Within sport, it’s hugely important to have it but there’s a lot of work to do because there’s still some barriers we need to climb through.

“I think it would have a massive, positive impact [if a Premier League player was to come out]. I didn’t know any gay water polo players – I only knew Tom Daley, who is a diver, and that was the only role model I had.

“Within the Premier League, because there’s no role models like that and I think younger players coming through would be reluctant to come out.”

In the absence of significant numbers of role models, it is down to the wider public to make society a more welcoming place, Lewis believes.

He says: “People don’t usually call it out, which is why I think it’s important that I do, and other people do. If you aren’t calling it out, the nothing’s going to change.

“People don’t realise what they’re saying is completely out of order and completely wrong – that’s why the Rainbow Laces campaign is really helpful.

“If I ever hear homophobic slurs, even just a passing comment, I'm like, ‘guys, come on, that’s not a suitable thing to be saying’.

“As much as I don’t hear it as frequently now, during school and growing up, it was more commonplace but I think it’s slowly fading out. It’s just plain rude to be offensive like that.”

Lewis was speaking to AU vice-president Matt Addison as part of Sport Liverpool’s Rainbow Laces campaign for 2019.