Manchester United’s officially recognized LGBTQ+ supporter group has asked Instagram for an apology after the account was suspended on Rainbow Laces activation day.

Rainbow Devils’ account was deleted after a post announcing a newly installed rainbow banner at Old Trafford received a large number of abusive comments.

The group accused Instagram owners Meta of “siding with… haters,” but Meta later reinstated the account, telling Sky Sports News it was erroneously deleted.

Rainbow Devils then released a second statement calling for a public apology and a more proactive approach from the tech giants when dealing with abusive messages.

The statement read: “Following our early statement on Instagram shutting down the account of Rainbow Devils, Manchester United’s officially recognized LGBTQ+ fan group, we are delighted to see our account has been reinstalled.

“The fact remains, however, that it should never have been removed in the first place.

“We are very grateful for the support from Manchester United and allies in the media who helped us bring Instagram up to date, but we should not have needed this help and are concerned about those in our community who are being discriminated against on a daily basis and cannot call on influential allies to support them.

“We’re calling on Instagram to publicly apologize, decide not to let this happen again to a minority group, and proactively remove all homophobic comments to our posts.”

Sky Sports News has reached out to Instagram owners Meta for a response to the second statement.

The first statement read: “Hours after Manchester United FC unveiled the new banner at Old Trafford in support of officially recognized LGBTQ+ fan group Rainbow Devils, Instagram responded by suspending the Rainbow Devils account.

Earlier today, Manchester United FC announced that it had installed a permanent banner on the ground in support of the Rainbow Laces campaign, a story shared on both the club’s and the Rainbow Devils’ social media accounts.

“While there have been many outpourings of support, there have also been thousands of homophobic comments, including messages threatening to report us. These reports were clearly successful because Instagram shut down the Rainbow Devils account.

“Fan groups like Rainbow Devils are here to support the lesbian, gay, bi and trans football community and our allies to create a welcoming and inclusive environment in the game and a safe haven for the haters who would discriminate.

Today Instagram sided with those haters and chose to remove us from its platform. Rainbow Devils calls on Instagram to immediately reinstate the account and apologize for the pain it has caused LGBTQ+ football fans and to ensure that this won’t happen again.”

After Sky Sports News contacted Instagram owners Meta for comment, a spokesperson for the organization said: “We accidentally deleted the account and immediately reinstated it once we became aware of the error”.

Close up of a rainbow corner flag
Premier League and EFL clubs support Rainbow Laces this weekend

Fresh look for Rainbow Laces as the whole sport is called to action

‘Lace Up, Speak Up’ is the message of this year’s annual Rainbow Laces activation, with a renewed appeal to people involved in sport to increase visibility by wearing multicolored laces, show support and contribute talking to gay, trans, bi and lesbian people feel more comfortable in a sports environment.

There will be visible displays of support for the campaign this weekend, with the Premier League and EFL being among the leagues heavily involved in the initiative, and there will be air sports.

Research conducted last year by ICM for Stonewall, the equal opportunities charity that coordinates Rainbow Laces, showed that one in five sports fans still think anti-LGBTQ+ language is harmless if it’s just “talk”.

Still, the campaign continues to make an important difference. The same 2020 survey found that two-thirds of sports fans who have seen Rainbow Laces feel they have a responsibility to champion LGBTQ+ fans of the teams and sports they follow — an increase from the previous statistic.

Every year, 12 million people are involved in the initiative, either by wearing laces, through social media or by organizing events. In addition to a range of different lace up designs, there are also pin badges featuring the new logo, headbands and captain’s armbands.

Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, back for the annual activation from November 25th to December 12th. Your story about LGBTQ+ or an ally can help make sports a game for everyone – contact us here to discuss further.

Hate will not win

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