Words: Will Stroude; Image: Diliff, Wiki Commons
British tennis star Liam Broady demonstrated his LGBTQ allyship at the Australian Open on Tuesday (18 January) by sporting rainbow laces on court.
The 28-year-old tennis pro, currently ranked 128 in the world, donned the Pride-themed laces during his first round loss to Australia's Nick Kyrgios at the first Grand Slam event of the year.
Speaking to The Tennis Podcast's Matt Roberts in press following the match, Broady explained that he decided to wear rainbow laces to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community and to raise awareness of the fact that there are currently no out gay players on the ATP men's professional circuit.
"I just kind of wanted to send the support", said Broady, who made the second round at Wimbledon last year. "I know obviously within men's tennis - is it a taboo? I don't think it's really a taboo, but I've seen questions before about why there aren't any openly gay men on tour, and I just wanted to kind of voice my support in that kind of general area."
The sportsman continued: "And the LGBTQ community, I mean, a lot of those guys have given me a lot of support throughout my career and have been there since day one, so I kind of wanted to give a thank you of my own sort of way."
Asked whether there is a culture in men's tennis that is preventing gay players from coming out publicly, Broady replied: "I don't think so. I mean, I guess the society we live in there's a culture like that, right? Especially in sport.
"I saw that the first openly gay footballer [Josh Cavallo] just came out in Australia a month or two ago. And it's difficult, right? I mean, it's a big thing to do and at the end of the day in the 21st century, it's pretty rubbish that people don't feel like they can be openly gay. It's quite sad, really."
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Broady added: "But, you know, hopefully [I can] help raise awareness for it and if there are people in the locker rooms and, you know, you don't want to force them to come out, especially if they don't want to. It's their choice. So you just got to try and support in the way you can and just let them know that everything's okay."
While there have been many out and proud stars in the women's game over the years - including Grand Slam champions Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King - the only male player from the upper echelons of the men's game come out publicly has been former world number 57 Brian Vahaly, who spoke about his sexuality for the first time in 2017, a decade after retiring from the game.
Asked whether he was aware of any players who wanted to come out but felt like they couldn't Broady responded: "No. No, I'm not... I know of no one."