Politics and sport can never be separate entities. Over the long and fruitful history of sport, there are examples where politics is so far intertwined with sport that the line becomes blurred. Jesse Owens, the Munich Games terrorism and the long list of sporting boycotts all serve as past reminders. AFL fans want one thing; football. They do not want their political persuasion to affect how they view a club, but the young, yet not so naive Giants have put themselves in the firing line after committing political suicide.
The ACT has legalised same sex marriage and the Giants posted their support for that on their Facebook fan page. Many Giants supporters lashed out in the comments section, saying that the Giants should not be posting anything that has political ties. Others said the club was just trying to shallowly create a progressive image and be seen as ‘the club of the future’. Worse still, there were some simply homophobic comments that transformed the post into an argument.
All these things make me cringe. Fortunately, there were many Giants fans, and neutrals too, that voiced their support. Most fans simply do not care the political side of marriage equality. It just doesn’t affect them. Yet it seems the homophobes out there are always vocal, and the fear of public backlash will stop other clubs joining in a public fight against homophobia. So far, all the support for IDAHO has come from players themselves, the Player’s Association and Jason Ball, an anti-homophobia advocate.
Teams are all weary of the outrage it could cause, but there is one fact in all this which could change entire outlooks and perhaps even shift the homophobic macho culture. Homophobia is not a political issue: it is an issue of basic human rights.
There is still yet to be a single AFL player come forth to the public and announce they are gay. Why should they? They don’t need to. Their friends, team mates and people around the club would know and that is all that matters. Yet imagine how the entire political landscape could change in Australian sport if we had even just one AFL player to represent the LGBT community. Fans would unite and stamp out homophobia. Teams would be ballsy enough to support equal rights and most importantly, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people could all feel more comfortable with themselves and their world; and at the end of the day, replacing shame with joy is what every human deserves.
The perennial talk of an exodus of young Giants players has almost become a running joke. Sure, they have had players leave. But when you think about it, it is not just being homesick, or wanting more money, it is about satisfaction and comfort at a club. The Giants have taken the first step to becoming a ‘destination club’. Gay players would not ever want to abandon a club where they know that they have the full support of the staff and playing group. Being alienated in a club that embodies masculinity could terribly damage a gay player’s well being. The Giants can throw their doors open and say hey; we might not be able to offer instant success, or even more playing opportunities. But we will make you feel comfortable in your own body. We respect you and you’re welcome here.
Soon, the trend might even be an exodus from other clubs as players flock to the Giants.
Over the past year, many of the Bound For Glory News team have helped cover the AFL’s fight against homophobia, women’s football and racial discrimination. All of these articles share the same reason; football is a shared passion everyone should be able to enjoy. Discrimination in any form has to be stopped.
Jason Ball started the campaign against homophobia, and the AFL aided him via airing anti homophobia ads in the 2012 finals series. They were working with him to make a ‘Rainbow Round’ in order to support the LGBT community. The AFL quietly put that on the backburner and decided to err on the side of caution and not throw their support behind Rainbow Round. Aside from the AFLPA’s campaign for IDAHO day, the AFL community has not heard a peep of support for the LGBT community until the post from the Giants.
For those who labelled the Giants as being a club trying to seem progressive, you’re completely right. Their support, whether it be entirely sincere or more of a marketing ploy doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things, because it is just another wheel in motion in the semi trailer that is the fight against homophobia.
As a uni student and Bombers supporter, the first thing I would do if I had the money would be to sign up for an Essendon membership. The second would be sign up for a GWS membership. They are winning the neutrals over. I might as well hop on board before they become a force, both on field and in the human rights landscape.