Footballer, Jason Akermanis's opinion piece in today's Herald Sun.
I don't like football. Don't follow it. Don't have a team. Would rather it not be a part of my Melbourne life, but it seems unavoidable.
This opinion piece confirms my belief that footballers should stick to doing what they do best. Kicking balls on the field. Not have media careers unless they are going to offer a constructive and intelligent opinion.
Jason Akermanis believes that gay footballers should remain 'in the closet' because it could be detrimental to the football team. He does not think the football world is ready to accept homosexuality. And he admits to feeling uncomfortable around gay footballers in the change rooms.
'If you thought suicide was bad among young men, it is four to six times higher for people who are attracted to the same sex. It clearly can be a difficult and lonely road, one that hopefully can be made easier.
Now try being the first AFL player to come out. That is too big a burden for any player.'
Not only has Akermanis failed to mention the sources of his sketchy 'facts', but he hasn't made things any easier for gay footballers to come out. Not even when he says that he hopes things can be made easier for them.
I can sort of see his point, though it seems to be located in a really dim lit room full of cliches and testosterone, nudge nudge, wink winks and college jockery. The point I can sort of see is Akermanis's warning to gay footballers not to admit to being gay.
I can only sort of see his point from the perspective that coming out in the type of environment that Akermanis fosters through his narrow minded views would be detrimental to the emotional health and security of said footballers.
He suggests that the coming out of a high profile footballer would make international news and 'could break the fabric of the club'.
If the club had any fabric, it would be supportive and accepting. It shouldn't be a big deal. It shouldn't be an issue for the team. If anything, the team spirit created through support should be encouraging, respectful and promoting of inclusion, no matter sexual orientation.
Workplace diversity is such an important issue. And anti-discrimination is a legal issue. Why should the principles of workplace diversity not apply to a football team? I believe the football team is the footballer's workplace. There is a disparity here. Particularly when there has been a number of cases where footballers have been suspended or sacked from their team, or criminally charged for serious incidents in their private life that have been before the courts.
I have heard of football codes taking part in training programs about how to treat women respectfully. Could there be some sort of training program to tell them that homosexuality is ok and homophobia is not ok?
I imagine it would be so difficult to have to suppress your true self through fear of ramifications. Message to Akermanis and other footballers and the general public who share this view: coming out does not mean that homosexuality will be flaunted or become contagious.
If Akermanis is not given a speaking to by his team and the AFL chiefs about his homophobic attitude in addition to the dressing downs he has already received from community groups and the media - Crikey and Jack Marx have given good rebuttal, then maybe he should spend some time with one of the fantastic homosexuality support groups being run in Melbourne schools.
When I was 20 and living in a small town, I went shopping with my good friend to buy a present for his then boyfriend's 21st birthday. He wanted to buy his boyfriend a ring. I pretended to look for a ring for MY boyfriend, and said that I had my friend there to give his opinion. We often laugh about the whole experience because I didn't get my story straight from the outset, and at one jeweller, the sales assistant asked whether 'my' boyfriend liked silver or gold. I didn't know. 'Silver', my friend blurted out. It was a fun trip, all of our shopping trips were fun, but when I think back, we should't have had to shop under any guise. My friend should have been able to buy a ring for his boyfriend with no judgement or stigma.
In my opinion, when high profile gay people come out, it reduces the stigma surrounding homosexuality and may reassure gay people that it's ok to come out and be themselves. I can think of a number of high profile people who have come out, or have been openly gay since the start of their celebrity status, that have said that it's made a difference to their fans – gay or not. Ruby Rose. Daniel Kowalski. Darren Hayes. Beth Ditto. Adam Lambert.
Akermanis says, 'We have made massive steps in other areas of society and in time I hope the environment changes to a degree where coming out isn't a big deal.'
Well, this opinion piece has just confirmed that the environment will continue to be difficult for gay footballers, and that coming out will remain a big deal, because of the attitude and prejudices conveyed.
Victoria University released a report about homophobia in sport today. You can view a press release with a link to the full report here.