Not just a logo, players are role models

Haslum men’s, women’s handball teams wearing gender equality on their jerseys

Photo: Lars Kvam /NHF
Stian Brevik of Haslum’s handball club and Anette Sundal of the Haslum women’s team proudly wear the new jerseys.

MICHAEL KLEINER
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

European athletes’ uniforms can be walking commercial billboards, filled with so many business logos you don’t know the team.

The Haslum handball clubs have reserved a prominent place in the lower-left corner for a special logo, the gender equality logo, in a groundbreaking partnership with UNICEF Norway. Haslum Handball promises to donate NOK 1.6 million (over $191,000) over the next three years to UNICEF Norway.

While excited by the partnership, Kristin Oudmayer, director of children’s rights and sustainability at UNICEF Norway, also sees this as more than a symbol on a uniform. Gender equality will be played out in practice at the club, and thus transcend generations.

“It is a great honor for us that a handball club like Haslum wants a collaboration,” Oudmayer told handball.no at the announcement at the organization’s Oslo office. “We really appreciate your commitment. You have made an active choice of values, considering that this will permeate the entire club in the way the players develop and how the club is run. We are also concerned about this—that it should provide lasting changes, and that all children and young people should have equal opportunities, regardless of their gender and background. It is a strong signal when you choose to have that logo on your suit. It is not certain that everyone knows what it stands for, but now you have the opportunity to explain what it means.”

Doing something like this that would unite the clubs had been germinating for some time, says Haslum men’s General Manager and Coach Tom-Eirik Skarpsno.

“This is an idea we got a while ago,” Skarpsno told handball.no. “We have had a process in Haslum with the men’s and women’s teams, where we have tried to gather under an umbrella that we call Haslum Handball. For our part, it is important that we put gender equality on the agenda. Haslum has traditionally been a boy-heavy environment, and for us it has been important to include the girls in the handball project. Then came the idea of a collaboration with UNICEF, to focus on gender equality.

“When we enter the parquet, whether it is with the men’s team or the women’s team, it is with an extra pride now. Since we have a gender equality logo on the jerseys, we have also marked a position.”

The jerseys are light blue with white lettering, a change in team colors, but Eirik Oskarsen, marketing manager at Haslum Handball, told handball.no, “These are the nicest away kits we’ve ever had! And they are inspired by the collaboration with UNICEF.” 

The players are proud to wear the uniform, but they realize a responsibility comes with it.

“First of all, it is very nice,” said Stian Brevik on handball.no. “The away suit in light blue means a new color for us, but entering into a collaboration on equality and equal opportunities for all is great in itself. We get to be role models for all children and young people in Haslum. It is exciting and involves a social responsibility for us. So, now we have to build these values into the club and stand for them.”

Anette Sundal noted the eight partner clubs Haslum Handball has in Bærum / Oslo will also be involved.

“We are leading the way as role models,” she told handball.no. “We show quite clearly what we stand for. We can include, get everyone involved, open up, and make sure that as many people as possible are involved.”

“We want to start attitude courses for children,” said Skarpsno. “We want to show through our events and activities the values we collaborate with UNICEF on, and we also want to get it out to our partner clubs.”

This is another recent example of athletes and teams taking positions on social issues and Norwegian athletes have been at the forefront of some. The national men’s soccer team protested mistreatment of migrant workers in Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host. Before a World Cup qualifier against Montenegro at Ullevål Stadion on Oct. 11, they held a sign, “Equal Rights On and Off the Pitch,” with LGBTQ+ colors, coinciding with Coming Out Day. The Norwegian women’s beach handball team protested the requirement that women players wear bikinis at matches, which in October, the board of the International Handball Federation overturned, pending a vote at the November convention. “Women can wear medium-length tights and an upper that covers the stomach,” Norwegian Handball Federation President Kåre Geir Lio told NRK.

For more information about Norwegian handball, visit www.handball.no.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 5, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.

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