Campaigner succeeds with gay ads at footy
Openly gay footballer Jason Ball says the football community has been part of the homophobia problem and he's glad the AFL will now be part of the solution.PT1M34S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-26acz 620 349 September 21, 2012
The AFL is considering a gay pride round next season in a bid to make football a more inclusive sport.
It comes after The Age today revealed that the league will show anti-homophobia ads on the big screen before tonight's preliminary final between Sydney and Collingwood at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.
The ads will also air at the Hawthorn v Adelaide twilight clash at the MCG tomorrow.
Jason Ball started a petition urging the AFL to show anti-homophobia ads during the grand final. Photo: Ken Irwin
The move follows a petition launched by openly gay country footballer Jason Ball, urging the AFL to screen the ads, and to stage a gay pride round, similar to the league's multicultural and indigenous rounds.
League boss Andrew Demetriou told 3AW this morning that they were looking into the possibility.
"A pride game is one of the options we're looking at. If we get behind something we genuinely believe in and if it's something that we think we can help raise awareness and shift attitudes then we would support it," he said.
"We would consult with experts in this matter and get the best advice to see how we can address this issue properly like we did with illicit drugs. I want to make sure then if we do go down this track we do it properly."
Mr Ball, whose petition garnered more than 26,000 signatures through social change movement Change.org, told The Age he was delighted by the development.
"The fact that the AFL are considering a pride round, amongst a host of other options, is amazing news. Nothing would send a better message to gay players and fans that they're welcome and included in this game we love," he said.
In what is a first for a national sporting code, fans at the preliminary finals will see gay pride ads - produced by No to Homophobia - a collective of gay rights and social justice groups - on the scoreboards before the games.
The ads will be introduced by stadium announcers with the following statement: "As part of its commitment to making football a game for everyone, the AFL is proud to support a new campaign to tackle homophobia. This campaign aims to remind people that discrimination in any form is never acceptable - whether it's on the footy field or in everyday life."
No to Homophobia spokeswoman Anna Brown said they would work with the AFL over the next 12 months on anti-vilification and diversity programs.
"We're looking forward to working with the AFL to develop a range of initiatives to tackle homophobia, and a pride round is one possible initiative that could be considered," she said.
The AFL was criticised for not doing more to combat homophobia after St Kilda's Stephen Milne escaped with a fine and an education course, rather than a suspension, for calling Collingwood defender Harry O'Brien a "f---ing homo" during a game last month.
Mr Ball said he hopes the ads, and the possibility of a pride round, would highlight the hurt that homophobic language causes and help, "shift the sporting culture so that players and fans like me can openly be who we are without fear".
In the fortnight since the 24-year-old Yarra Glen footballer told The Sunday Age his story, other gay footballers, umpires and coaches have spoken out about their experiences of homophobia.
Some said they were forced to quit the game to escape abuse and discrimination.
One Auskick coach revealed he had to quit the sport after parents of children he coached saw him leaving a bar holding hands with his partner.
"Word spread like wildfire, and the next day at Auskick I was confronted by a group of very angry parents and the local organisers who told me to 'get the f--- away' from their kids, and a few other well-chosen rants," he said.
"I've never been back and never confronted the organisers because I didn't want ignorant, bigoted messages to somehow filter down to the kids."