Akermanis on gays in the AFL
August 20th 2008 08:22
'Aka' is always outspoken, and often in trouble for it, and he's the one who has broken the AFL players silence on the issue of gays in Australian Rules Football.
Outwardly it's the issue the AFL don't want to touch. On my radio show a senior AFL official said, in effect, that if a player came out, then the anti-vilification rules would of course apply, but to date no one has, and until they do, the AFL can't do anything.
That's nonsense, of course, but the hierarchy is for some reason terrified of taking a pro-active stance and making it safe for a player to come out.
Aka explains why that might not be the best approach. He describes the way players regularly call one another 'poofters' (and other jibes with the same meaning) when they're on the pitch.
This is the first time I can recollect anyone from the AFL admitting publicly that this sort of homophobic sledging goes on.
The AFL says they can't stop that until a player complains he's been vilified on the grounds of his sexual orientation - which is nonsense. The AFL has made it plain that racist language is unacceptable. They could make it equally plain in a second that homophobic language and behaviour is taboo, too.
But that would be tantamount to admitting there are gay players in the sport - something Aka (and simple common sense) confirms.
Clearly the issue is boiling up inside the sport, with comments in the press from coach Kevin Sheedy, former captain (and now club director Nathan Burke), and now veteran player Jason Akermanis.
But Aka is the first to point a possible way forward. Assured of the support and shelter of the hierarchy, the first gay player to come out could reap a fortune in endorsements, as well as easing at one move the horrible burden of insult and vilification from other players at all levels.
It will take big shoulders to carry all that. But there's no shortage of them in the sport!
subscribe to this blog