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Everyone has a right to be treated equally

To mark IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia) on Saturday 17 May, the AFL Players’ Association is running a social media campaign titled #Footy4IDAHO.

IDAHO commemorates the day homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organisation in 1990. The fact homosexuality was once even classified as a ‘disease’ is simply extraordinary.

‘After seeing how my sister was treated when she came out, I felt compelled to help address the issue of homophobia in our society.’

To support this campaign, AFL players will feature in a video pledging their commitment to not use homophobic language and to stand up to those who do.

I was motivated to join this campaign and lend my support, after speaking out in support of my sister who is gay.

After seeing how my sister was treated when she came out, I felt compelled to help address the issue of homophobia in our society.

The way some people looked at her and the way some people treated her like a second class citizen made me sick. It gets back to basic human rights. Everyone has a right to be treated equally.

This campaign raises awareness of homophobia in society and in sport but also the little things that we use in our language, like ‘that’s gay’ or ‘you’re gay’… And reminding people that those little phrases that we use makes a big difference to some people.

I think the AFL community has been extremely supportive of this stance and this demonstrates a massive step in our quest for change.

However, there are always some people who react negatively and while you obviously get the one or two idiots that give you stick on social media, they are clearly the minority.

I think the more people we get talking about it, the better. We only need to look at the example of NBA player Jason Collins in the States who came out. The support we saw from the whole world was fantastic so that’s a strong and powerful message for anyone in AFL or any other team sport.

2014 marks the third time the AFL Players’ Association has supported IDAHO. Players shared a similar anti-homophobia message across social media platforms in 2009, with an emphasis on fostering a culture of inclusion at all times.

Hearing people like Jason Ball, who plays for the Yarra Glen Football Club, speak about the fact that young kids who are gay are six times more likely to suffer from depression or consider suicide, purely based on their sexual orientation, highlights the urgency to speak out about this.

We have to create, especially in sport, a more welcoming environment because at the moment it can be a hostile world and a lot of work needs to be done to shift that culture.

It’s simply not enough to refrain from using homophobic terms – it’s also about having the courage to tell people “hey listen, that is not on.”

I strongly believe that the key to inclusion and acceptance is education. The progress the AFL has made with racism is an example of how it has been the vehicle to create change within society. We have stamped racial vilification right out of the game and it shouldn’t be any different to homophobia.

It’s possible that given our position as AFL players within the community, we have the power to use our profiles to help initiate change. We are in a unique situation whereby we have the opportunity to use IDAHO as a vehicle to promote the importance and power of language, while also creating an inclusive environment.

IDAHO is not just about creating change within football, but in creating change in the whole of society. This is so much bigger than just the industry, but it’s there that we have the ability to start that change process. As I’ve said, it’s not only important as an industry; it is important for all of society to embrace.

The AFL Players’ Association will continue to support IDAHO and I encourage our members and fans to once again spread this important message via social media channels.