Sport

You Can Play Forum brings the fight against homophobia to Canberra

ACT Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr has called for an anti-homophobia round to help make Australian sport more inclusive, writes David Polkinghorne.

Capital Football have suspended a player for 30 months in part for a disgusting Facebook slur, while ACT Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr wants Canberra to be part of an anti-homophobia round to help make Australian sport more inclusive.

Mr Barr and Capital Football chief executive Heather Reid took part in the You Can Play Forum in Canberra on Wednesday to discuss homophobia and transphobia in sport.

High-profile athletes such as former Wallabies Clyde Rathbone and David Pocock, Canberra Raider David Shillington and Canberra Capitals' Lauren Jackson either took part or provided video messages during the event, which was also streamed live online as part of an Australian Sports Commission, You Can Play and ACT government initiative.

It covered a range of topics, including the damage homophobia does to participation in sport and how transgender people feel they have no place in sport at all.

An ACT government survey earlier this year revealed that 37 per cent of gay athletes in Canberra hadn't told their teammates about their sexuality, 40 per cent felt unsafe in a sporting environment, 32 per cent had experienced verbal homophobia or bullying, and more than four per cent had experienced homophobic assault.

Ms Reid has been the subject of sexism, misogyny and homophobia as ACT soccer boss, and she saidCapital Football had recently suspended a player for 30 months, 12 of which were suspended, for several offences including a highly offensive Facebook post which has since been deleted.

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The player was found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, breach of Capital Football social media policy and threatening behaviour towards Capital Football staff.

Ms Reid said it was an example of the type of abuse - often relating to her sexuality - she received, not only on social media but at games and functions.

"There were three or four show-cause complaints against him, but one of them was a comment on Facebook basically saying to Capital Football people, 'I hope youse all die of Aids'," she said.

During the forum Ms Reid said it was assumed all women in sport were gay and all men were straight - neither of which was true.

She said every sport had its own culture and own issues and there wasn't a one-size-fits-all approach that could be used to help rid all sport of homophobia and transphobia.

Mr Barr, one of the few openly gay politicians in Australia, said it was important to keep the discussion on the public agenda and he challenged everyone to ask how they could make their own sport more inclusive.

He praised the efforts of people such as Pocock who had come out in support of stamping out homophobia in sport.

Mr Barr said every elite athlete who did so helped raise awareness of what damage could be done by homophobic slurs.

He called on Australia's major sporting bodies to continue helping to change the public's attitude towards homophobia. And he is pressing the AFL to host a themed game in the ACT, much as they have done with multicultural and indigenous rounds.

"If a match that has this as its focus can be held in Canberra in a future season, then we'd be very happy to do that," he said.

"But we'd be equally happy if it's a round and there's a game played in every city in the country that has that focus."

Initial discussions have already taken place between Mr Barr, Greater Western Sydney and the AFL for a themed game to be held at Manuka Oval.

"The Giants and the AFL have had some initial discussions with the ACT government," a GWS spokesperson said.

"As a club that  supports inclusion, we're happy to consider any proposals and will continue discussions with Minister Barr and the AFL."

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