The issue of homophobic derogatory language being used at AFL games came to the forefront of the Adelaide media this week, after a Port member made a complaint over twitter about a fellow Port supporter yelling out a slur to injured Tiger Chris Knights, calling him a ‘f—ing poof’.

The complaint was retweeted many times, and the complainant was contacted by Triple M Adelaide, and asked to speak on the morning show, and then contacted again by the station and asked to speak on the issue the same afternoon.

Michelangelo Rucci who wrote his own article stating that, “a long-time, female Crows member who has joined the Power membership this season has taken offence at an unidentified Port fan who verbally abused Richmond and former Adelaide half-forward Chris Knights after he fell to ground after kicking a goal in the second term of Port’s loss. He was later carried off with a serious knee injury. She took issue with two remarks made from the terraces.”

Rucci was repeating information that was correct, but that was also irrelevant, and he left out the most important part of the complaint — that the remarks that caused offence were not merely swearing, but were derogatory homophobic language.

The complainant has been a Port Adelaide Member for a year, because she believes that the Club has markedly improved, and she loves watching football. She is still an Adelaide Crows supporter, and states that she would have made the same complaint had she heard those remarks at a Crows game. The complaint had nothing at all to do with the storied rivalry between the Crows and Power, and everything to do with language that is discriminatory towards Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (GLBTI) people.

I can unequivocally state what the motivations of the complainant were, because I am the person who made the complaint. I made the complaint over twitter because I was at the game and I was furious and bewildered that spectators of a sport would believe that it is acceptable to use homophobic slurs to insult someone. I passionately believe that homophobia has no place in society, and that the use of words such as ‘poof’ and ‘f—-got’ are extremely damaging.

I did not make the complaint to slander Port Adelaide Football Club. I did not make the complaint and speak to the media because I was seeking fame or attention. I did not report the incident at the ground, and in retrospect I should have, but I was not certain what the security would even do, and the individual stopped after their initial diatribe. I had no expectations that my comments on twitter would be picked up by the media and made into a story. I have been extremely happy with how Port Adelaide are dealing with the issue of crowd language and behaviour, with the club vowing to take proactive steps to address crowd education.

I spoke to the media because clearly this issue needs speaking about. I described the level of response that has been directed towards me not because I am seeking fame or sympathy, but to make it clear that while the majority of people who attend football understand that homophobia has no place, there are clearly many who do not.

Many people have questioned the relevance of homophobic slurs, given that there are no professional AFL players who have revealed their sexuality. When using words such as ‘poof’ or ‘f—-got’ as a term of weakness you are implying that someone who is gay is somehow lesser than someone who is not; that a person who is gay is weaker, or less important or capable than someone who is not.

There was a time when it was socially accepted that racist slurs were used at the game, with the rationale that ‘everyone’ spoke like that. That time has passed, and the time has long passed where homophobic language should be used anywhere. Cheering and booing at the football does not give supporters a license to say whatever they feel like, and the excuse of ‘that’s just footy’ is unacceptable.

That may have been football once, but it should be no longer.

Beyond Blue Ambassador Jason Ball states that “the time is now to raise people’s awareness to the damaging effects this language has, especially on GLBTI youth who are up to 6 times more likely to experience depression or contemplate suicide. To say something is ‘gay’ might seem harmless on the surface – but essentially if you’re equating gay to mean bad, weak or disgusting, this has a significant impact on the self-worth and mental well-being of young people coming to terms with their sexuality.”

When you yell-out using homophobic derogatory remarks at the football, you are vilifying and marginalising an entire group of people.  The AFL players have launched a new campaign to curb gay slurs that coincides with the International Day Against Homophobia, on Friday, May 17th, #FOOTY4IDAHO.

Please visit the AFL Player’s Association to read about the campaign and watch the video.

AFL players from every club have asked fans to take the pledge.

‘I have taken the pledge to never use homophobic language. Think before you speak. It’s time to stop shirking the issue. #Footy4IDAHO’

The AFL as an organisation has still not done enough to address the use of homophobia in sport. Jason Ball agrees, stating that “the AFL Players Association’s #FOOTY4IDAHO campaign is an exceptional show of leadership, and it is time to see the AFL follow the players’ example and take real action on this issue.”

I would ask you as AFL fans to take it a step further. Do not use homophobic language, and if you hear it, report it to stadium authorities and the relevant club.  It is not a matter of ‘dobbing’, it is a matter of changing the culture so that our great sport is an inclusive and safe environment for everyone.

We all have the power to change the way language is used. We all have the power to wipe out homophobia from the game we love.