The AFL industry is calling on fans to take the pledge to never use homophobic language and stand up to those who do, as part of a player-driven social media campaign targeted at tackling homophobia and promoting inclusion in the lead up to IDAHO, International Day Against Homophobia, this Saturday.
Prominent figures from within the AFL community – including AFL Players’ Association President Luke Ball, AFL General Manager Football Operations, Mark Evans, Richmond President Peggy O’Neal and AFL superstars such as Patrick Dangerfield and Nic Naitanui – will feature in a video pledging their commitment not to use homophobic language and to stand up to those who do.
IDAHO commemorates the day homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organisation in 1990.
It is the third season in which the AFL Players’ Association has supported this concept; players first shared a similar anti-homophobia message across social media platforms in 2009, with an emphasis on fostering a culture of inclusion at all times.
Players’ Association Acting CEO Ian Prendergast said players felt strongly about the issue and were eager to keep the momentum going in 2014 following the success of the #FOOTY4IDAHO campaign in 2013.
“Everyone should feel safe and included… sport should be for everyone” – Brock McLean
“There’s no room in our game for vilification of any form, and this extends beyond the playing field and into everyday life. Footy is for everyone, and it’s really important that people involved in the game, from a grassroots level up to the elite level, never lose sight of that,” Prendergast said.
“Last year we really saw players and fans unite on this issue and we’re hoping this will happen again. We want to make sure people think before they speak and understand it’s not just about avoiding using homophobic language ourselves, but also standing up to those who do.”
AFL General Manager Football Operations, Mark Evans said the wider AFL community was proud to throw its support behind the players’ campaign.
“The AFL and clubs are pleased to back this AFLPA social media initiative to raise awareness about the hurt caused by homophobia in sport and to promote inclusion and diversity at all levels of Australian Football,” Mr Evans said.
“Discrimination is never acceptable and vilification based on sexual identity is just as offensive as vilification based on gender, race, religion, colour or disability.”
Carlton midfielder Brock McLean – who supported #FOOTY4IDAHO says the #IDAHO campaign is something everyone should support, regardless of whether or not they have a direct link with the GLBTI community.
“It just appeals to a common sense that everyone should feel safe and included, and that sport should be for everyone,” McLean says.
“It gets back to basic human rights. Everyone has a right to be treated equally,” McLean said.
Jason Ball, amateur footballer and GLBTI advocate, experienced many slurs growing up, but says he’s certainly noticed a shift in attitude in those he plays with and against in the Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League, and believes the campaign is making a difference amongst the football community.
“I’ve noticed a huge change in terms of awareness about this issue and the impacts that homophobic language has. You look at the mental health statistics around young people who are gay or lesbian, they’re much more likely to experience depression or attempt suicide” Ball said.
“I know that for me, when I was young, if I had role models like AFL players – not necessarily who were openly gay, but who were prepared to say ‘I’m against homophobia, and the game is for everyone, whether you’re gay or straight’ – that would’ve made a huge difference to me.
“I know from the campaign last year that it made a huge difference to a lot of people out there, from the feedback I’ve got. I guess what’s great this year is we’re adding more voices to the campaign. There are more people willing to speak up and get behind it”.
In addition to its backing for the social media campaign, the AFL is again supporting an outside broadcast of GLBTI community radio station JOY 94.9 FM at the football, on the eve of IDAHO Day at the Essendon versus Sydney clash at Etihad Stadium on Friday 16 May.
The broadcast will take place from a marquee situated outside Gate 7 on the Etihad Stadium concourse from 4-7pm before the bounce and will feature a host of football personalities as well as discussion around inclusion and diversity in the AFL community.
The Players’ Association has been supporting IDAHO since 2009 and, along with the AFL, is asking fans to join in taking this pledge, and to share the message via social media to help raise awareness of the damaging impact homophobic language can have within our society.
To find out more about the campaign visit www.aflplayers.com.au and www.afl.com.au.