Australian rules players launch anti-homophobia campaign
Australian rules footballers and coaches have launched a campaign to promote tolerance of homosexuality.
The “inclusion and diversity” campaign boasts some of the biggest names in the sport, including Neil Balme, Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel and Adam Goodes.
Almost 30 players and coaches have signed up to the Players’ Association project, to be launched officially next month.
The sportsmen and coaches have been photographed holding handwritten signs calling for acceptance and understanding of homosexuals.
Adelaide player Brett Burton is pictured with a placard that says: “We all have our little differences – celebrate them!” Geelong football manager Neil Balme’s reads: “Homophobic His-story!”
Because of its profile, the sport has often seen itself in the vanguard of social change, spearheading anti-racism campaigns and promoting respect towards women.
New research by Victoria University shows that gay men believe Australian rules is the most hostile football code, with many saying they feel too threatened to play the game.
“The fact that we have no out players is not the problem of the players, it is indicative of the somewhat hostile sporting landscape,” said Rob Mitchell, a member of the state government’s Sport Governance and Inclusion project, who helped Dr Pippa Grange, the Players’ Association’s general manager of culture and leadership, with the campaign.
The project comes less than a year after AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou declared that homophobia was unacceptable.
Mr Demetriou said: “Homophobia has no place in our game. The AFL altered our rules last year, to ensure that we stand against any discrimination on the basis of sexual identity or orientation.
‘Leading the way’
“I congratulate the players who are leading the way in ensuring we continue to welcome each and every person to our game.”
Dr Grange said no crisis had triggered the project – unlike the “respect women” campaign, which followed scandals involving players accused of degrading women, and a similar campaign against racism.
The Players’ Association says footballers know how it feels to suffer negative stereotyping and want to help another group of maligned individuals.
Though not scheduled to be launched until closer to the International Day Against Homophobia Day, held annually on May 17, the project is already considered a success because so many players and coaches are involved.
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