Lauren Jackson applauds sport's hard-line stance against discrimination

Lauren Jackson applauds sport's hard-line stance against discrimination

There's no such thing as a ''casual'' homophobic slur.

That's the message Australian Opals star Lauren Jackson hopes is now loud and clear after the NRL issued Wests Tigers youngster Mitchell Moses with a two-match ban for calling Canberra Raider Luke Bateman a ''f---ing gay c---'' in last week's under-20 Origin match.

Bateman told the NRL he didn't wish to make an official complaint and later used the media to say he wasn't gay.

Moses' statement wasn't designed as an attack on his sexuality. It's regrettably commonplace in football culture, particularly at lower levels, to hear players or supporters use words like ''gay'' or ''faggot'' to accuse someone of being weak, dumb or scared.

Jackson said the meaning behind the words was irrelevant, and backed the NRL's decision as sporting bodies attempted to eradicate an issue that had been an unfortunate staple of Australian male sports culture for years.

"There needs to be serious bans and fines put in place because it needs to stop," Jackson said. "It's threatening careers basically.


"Absolutely he should have been banned for it, there's no room for racism or homophobia in sport at all.

"The more people are aware the rhetoric and dialogue they're using at times is quite offensive, the more important it becomes to step on it and make sure they know it's not OK when they say 'that's gay' or whatever.

"As we evolve more as a society and think about what damage these things are doing, it's important people take a stand against it.

"It's great sports clubs and codes are finally saying no, it's not going to happen here, it's not allowed.''

Jackson and other high-profile sports stars, including David Pocock, Alessandro Del Piero, Libby Trickett, Paul Gallen and Mitchell Johnson feature in the You Can Play campaign, an anti-homophobia in sport initiative by Play By The Rules.

Pocock, who said he wouldn't marry his partner Emma until gay marriage was legalised, used the campaign to urge people to consider the language they used.

"I don't think sports are many more homophobic than wider society in Australia,'' he said. "In many cases, it's not overt homophobia, it's the language people use, the casual put downs that are homophobic in nature.

"When we challenge this language, then we’ll see people be a bit more comfortable in their own skin.

"I hate the idea of people missing out on sport because of the fear of being discriminated against. Sports are at their very best when they're challenging society to be more inclusive.''

Last month, the bosses of Cricket Australia, the NRL, the AFL, Football Federation Australia and the Australian Rugby Union signed an Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework Statement of Commitment.

The Moses incident was the first opportunity to prove its credibility.

Jackson, who had played for clubs in Europe, the US and China, said sexual discrimination was virtually non-existent in female sport, but believed it was a ''major'' problem in men's sport.

"Sexuality for one is more accepted for whatever reason in women's sport, but in men's sport it's a huge issue,'' she said.

"It's important we don't let people get away with derogatory statements and racial attacks or homophobic attacks. It's not OK.

"It needs to be stamped out because the football codes, they're such popular sports and they're role models. They're the people who have a chance of changing societal values.''

Jackson is passionate about raising awareness of racial and sexual discrimination not just in sport, but also in society.

"If people in everyday society are walking down the street, see a gay couple and think that's not OK, that's discrimination,'' she said.

"That's the behaviour and attitudes we're trying to change. It's not about making people come out of the closet, it's taking that pressure away so they can feel normal and accepted in society.

"The only way that can happen is if people change their attitude towards human beings, see people as people and that's it.

"Especially for athletes who give their entire lives to a sport and be called names, it's shocking and really disappointing.

"I'm glad everyone's taking a stand against it now, finally.''

Jackson also applauded the NBA's tough stance in banning LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for racist remarks last week.

"I think they did exactly the right thing, it was very unfortunte and quite bad considering how long he's been involved in the NBA,'' she said.

"It's a society thing and a generational thing. The NBA is going to stamp out racism and I think it's very important.''

She hoped younger generations would embrace the message and discrimination in sport would be weeded out.

"I think it's generational and as we're trying to drum it into society, I think it's going to change,'' she said.

"Generation by generation, people are going to become more accepted. People are just going to see people as people, and nothing more than that.''

Jon Tuxworth

Jon Tuxworth is a sports reporter at The Canberra Times.

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