The Australian Football League will take further steps to make homophobia unacceptable in the sport after backing the No To Homophobia campaign in August last year.
Now the players themselves are stepping forward with the AFL Players Association set to launch its own campaign to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) on May 17.
‘We want to make sure that any person who is involved in football whether they’re a player, an official or a supporter, feels very comfortable to be themselves in their workplace or at the game,’ AFL Players Association chief Matt Finnis told Fairfax newspapers, comparing the situation to where the code had been with racism 20 years ago.
‘Twenty years ago last month [indigenous footballer] Nicky Winmar lifted his jumper and took a stand and you’d like to think that not withstanding the isolated issues we experience from time to time, the volume of outwardly racist language has diminished as a result of that leadership that was shown.’
Winmar famously lifted his shirt during a game to show his pride in his complexion after being abused by racist fans.
As part of the campaign a group of prominent players will make a public pledge not to use homophobic language and will encourage people to challenge other fans if they catch them shouting homophobic abuse.
Players named as taking part include Essendon captain Jobe Watson and Collingwood players Scott Pendlebury and Luke Ball.
Those players will be joined by Richmond’s Daniel Jackson, Carlton’s Brock McLean, Kangaroos vice-captain Drew Petrie and Hawthorn’s Matt Spangher in making video messages highlighting the effects that homophobic language can have on people and players will also be encouraged to use their social media to share the message.
The code’s management are considering what other steps they can take to help tackle homophobia in the sport.
‘A specific ‘pride’ or ‘diversity’ match remains under consideration in the future and the AFL continues to consult and work with relevant groups on its overall policy approach and other initiatives related to inclusion and tolerance,’ AFL corporate affairs manager James Tonkin told Fairfax.