It’s unfathomable that we are writing this. We were supposed to talk to Jonathan after his week off and always looked forward to our phone calls and meetings because we knew we’d achieve something and it was always a joy to interact with him.
Like so many other people we are heartbroken that Jonathan is no longer with us. We’re struggling to articulate because any words we produce would never do him justice.
Kind, clever, funny and a fierce advocate for equality and inclusion, we first met Jonathan in February 2014 when he welcomed us to White Hart Lane and chaired the first ever Proud Lilywhites meeting. None of us knew what our group might become, but with Jonathan’s support and commitment to the cause we achieved so much in such a short space of time. We have no doubt that the reason the Proud Lilywhites is such a trailblazer in the LGBT+ fan group movement is down to Jonathan’s groundwork on our behalf with the Club.
We often get asked why there’s a need for an LGBT+ fan group at Spurs. Jonathan never asked, it was in his essence to be an ally and he genuinely cared. He once declared about discrimination: “I don’t get it, it’s about being human and nobody should be discriminated against”. Always a steady head, ready to listen and advise with a dry sense of humour, he wanted to work on educating fans rather than punish them. He believed in, and understood, social change and together we were making it, season by season we’d work together to push the boundaries a little more.
It’s striking, but not surprising, to see such an outpouring of grief at Jonathan’s loss; from individual fans, to fan groups, to football Clubs, the governing bodies and of course anyone who worked with him. This illustrates the measure of one of the world’s best humans. We’ve been contacted by many other LGBT+ fans who met Jonathan at various events over the years, all of them expressing their sadness, and sharing their gratitude for the work he did on helping us, and the wider LGBT+ fan movement.
Just the other day we were passing the new stadium and took a picture of a rainbow which appeared over it. Knowing we won’t get to be there with him is almost too hard to comprehend, but wherever he is now I hope he knows that we will continue our journey with him in our thoughts and hearts and will carry on with our important work for another reason now too—to honour his legacy.
Rest In Peace JW.
Chris Paouros, Simon Gray and everyone at Proud Lilywhites
We are also proud to share other tributes from the Spurs and football community:
Tottenham Hotspur’s LGBT+ supporters association, the Proud Lilywhites, has been nominated for a gong in the Football Supporters Federation annual awards.
The Proud Lilywhites, was launched in 2014 and is one of six supporter groups to be shortlisted for the Fans For Diversity Award with the winner being announced at a ceremony on 4th December in London.
Commenting on the nomination co-chairs Chris Paouros and Simon Gray said:
“We’re delighted that the Proud Lilywhites work has been recognised among the football supporting family and are really pleased that the work of LGBT+ fan groups is being highlighted with two of the six nominations going to LGBT+ groups. The field is really strong with some great work being showcased; it really illustrates that being a football fan is also about being part of your community.”
The fan group’s three key objectives are to educate, to socialise and to campaign and this year has seen the association excel in all three. 2017’s key achievements so far include:
- Receiving positive coverage in a number of national newspapers, LGBT+ websites and football media for its handling of the news of the signing of Serge Aurier. The statement around the transfer saw the groups biggest social media impact, with Twitter impressions topping 260,000
- Spearheading Tottenham Hotspur’s work in the Fare ‘football people’ fortnight of action
- Facilitating a workshop at Pride In Football’s ‘Call It Out’ conference in alongside the Club’s Head Of Supporter Services
- Speaking on the panel for Kick It Out’s ‘evening at the AMEX’ alongside Liam Rosenior, Hope Powell, Anwar Uddin and Sophie Cook
- Appearing on a panel alongside Greg Clarke at the Stonewall Rainbow Laces Summit
- Launch of the Football V Homophobia (FvH) month of action with keynote address from Donna Cullen, Tottenham Hotspur Executive Director
- Diversity and equality training session with Senior staff at White Hart Lane
- Various media opportunities include Sky Sports, BBC, 90 Minutes, Guardian Football Podcast and more
- Regular match day meet ups both at Wembley and in other venues for TV screenings
Commenting on the nomination, Donna Cullen, Tottenham Hotspur’s Executive Director:
“This nomination is testament to the fantastic work that Proud Lilywhites delivers promoting inclusion at Tottenham Hotspur – something that the Club is extremely passionate about.
“We should like to take this opportunity to wish Proud Lilywhites the best of luck at the Fans for Diversity Awards, alongside all other nominated organisations who are truly making a difference within our game.”
Future plans for the Proud Lilywhites include:
- Activities to promote Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign
- A key event to mark the Football vs Homophobia Month Of Action / LGBT History Month
- To increase the number of members in the group
- To work collaboratively with the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation
- To help the Tottenham Hotspur with diversity training for staff at the club
- Increased awareness raising of LGBT issues among the wider Spurs family.
The results of the awards will be announced at a glittering ceremony near Tower Bridge with other award nominees including for player of the year Spurs heroes Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris, the ceremony will definitely be a night to remember.
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A number of LGBT+ and ally fans, bloggers and media have asked us for comment on the signing of Serge Aurier given his well-publicised history.
We were initially unhappy with the signing, but given our positive dialogue with the Club we would like to use this as an opportunity to build bridges and make lasting change.
Football has the power to transform individuals’ lives and entire communities. At its best, it doesn’t merely delight us: it can provide us with a chance to transcend geographical boundaries and learn to work and play and celebrate together. Players, Clubs and the Football Authorities need to take this responsibility seriously, so what happens when players such as Serge Aurier who have been openly homophobic in the past join a new Club and have a fresh start? It actually gives us an opportunity to talk about the kind of game we want to see, players we want to support; the kind of Clubs we want to be and make effective and deep-rooted change.
We started the Proud Lilywhites in 2014 because we wanted to ensure that every Spurs fan, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity felt safe to enjoy watching their football team, knew they had a community with which to watch it and felt that they belonged. Our flag, which stood tall at White Hart Lane, became a testament to this. We wanted to be at the forefront of social and cultural transformation via football — changing hearts and minds – being part of creating the conditions that ensure all LGBT+ fans and staff feel safe and welcome in the football family.
But this is a journey – we don’t want to recriminate. One of our main tools for change is education, so we’d like to see engagement with LGBT+ fans is at the top of Serge’s list. We’ve already done great work with Stewards, Club staff and fans and look forward to working with the Club and other supporters, to show Serge Aurier that Spurs fans are incredibly diverse, welcoming and loyal.
We all love this game and we want to win matches and trophies, but not at any cost. Homophobic language, when unchallenged, can have consequences: we have to be the change we want to see. Making change, player by player, even fan by fan if necessary, is why we’re here and we won’t rest until we’ve done it.
Welcome to the famous Tottenham Hotspur Serge, we look forward to you getting to know us.
Chris Paouros and Simon Gray – Co-Chairs, Proud Lilywhites