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Aussie Rules But Not for Gays

Aussie Rules team the Western Bulldogs have imposed a two-match ban one on of their stars, Jason Akermanis, for saying in a newspaper column that he believes that having an openly gay player would be too controversial. Mr Akermanis believes gay players should

stay in the closet

I don’t know about you but when I hear the words “Australian Rules” I think of macho men pretending to play a ball game when really just wanting to kick the crap out of each other. I’m sure that is unfair but that is its image.  So I was really delighted to see that this Melbourne-based club took such action against a star player.  We can only hope that other teams around the world are watching.

In the column Mr Akermanis said

Imagine the publicity associated with a current player admitting he’s gay…It would be international news and could break the fabric of a club

His club have said they would not have approved of the column if they had seen it before it was published.

You have to ask yourself why they wouldn’t have allowed it; because what he said was homophobic or because he was right?

The sports world is not a place to come out unless you are mentally and emotionally strong and have the support of your family and club. There are innumerable professional sports-people in the world, but you can probably count on one hand how may of them are out. Can you blame them?

Look at what happened in South Africa. Eudy Simelane was a star of South Africa’s national women’s soccer team and was out about being gay. She was raped and murdered. Watch this moving piece from the BBC about her and the other women who risk murder for being out.

How about Justin Fashanu, the only English gay soccer player to come out; he couldn’t get a club to hire him and eventually killed himself.

There are out heroes, though, Donal Og Cusak the Cork hurling captain and Gareth Thomas, the former Welsh rugby international and Sheryl Swoopes, the basketball star to name just a few. It takes a special kind of lgbt person to face the music.

I don’t believe that any of this was on Jason Akermanis’ mind when he advised sport’s stars to stay in the closet, maybe he just doesn’t want to share the showers with a mo, under the impression that he is irresistible. As if any gay man would go for that facial hair.

The worry that, if someone came out, a club would fall apart is unforgivable. What sort of backroom team do the Bulldogs have if their team members’ sexualities are not supported. Can you imaging the locker room talk that must go on in there?

Yes, there is homophobia in sport but not coming out won’t fix it. Educating team members and, crucially, staff will ensure the “fabric of a club” remains intact, and it would make life so much easier for the closet cases in the team. Their lives are hard enough.

Come What May: The Autobiography

Strong Women, Deep Closets: Lesbians and Homophobia in Sport

More than a Game: Authorised History of Australian Rules Football

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