Sport tackles homophobia

Mel Smith
Country Organiser

Sport is being used as a vehicle to address homophobia in Victorian schools.

The Fair Go, Sport! program, developed by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, aims to make Victorian schools safer and more inclusive for same sex attracted and gender diverse students. Young people experience 80 per cent of homophobic abuse at school and feel the least safe in sport.

A similar project is not available to NSW schools, but sporting codes and athletes across the nation have been working to address homophobia in sport. In April the leaders of Cricket Australia, the NRL, the AFL, Football Federation Australia and the ARL signed an anti-homophobia and inclusion framework statement of commitment.

The You Can Play anti-homophobia in sport initiative has released statements from well-known athletes such as Lauren Jackson, Libby Trickett, Paul Gallen and Alessandro Del Piero encouraging people to reflect on their language and be inclusive. As Wallaby David Pocock who is also part of the initiative stated, “I don’t think sports are more homophobic than wider society in Australia … in many cases, it’s not over homophobia, it’s the language people use, the casual put downs that are homophobic in nature.” (Brisbane Times, May 9).

But despite these positive actions, Pocock’s comments about the sporting arena reflecting Australian society at large was proved correct last month when Channel Seven commentator Brian Taylor called a player a “poofter”. Taylor’s actions are precisely what discourages sports people from coming out and why young people receive the message that being gay is a bad thing.

As Australian diving champion Matthew Mitcham said: “That’s why we need high-profile gay athletes, to prove the stereotype wrong.”

Teachers must role-model appropriate behaviour and language, as well as act to ensure that the wellbeing and safety of all students are maintained.

Lauren Jackson did just that when commenting on the NRLs Wests Tigers player Mitchell Moses using a homophobic comment: “There is no such thing as a casual slur and … there’s no room for racism or homophobia in sport at all.” (Brisbane Times, May 9).