The AFL Players Association spoke out against homophobia in sport. Then the Western Bulldog’s Jason Akermanis made a contentious statement that gay sportsmen should not come out because it wouldn’t be safe for them. Thus ensued a lot of discussion in the mainstream and GLBT media regarding gay men and sport (start here).
It’s been said that the first person to come out will be in the media spotlight and there will be a lot of money to be made out of the story. Indeed.
At the same time as all of this speculation and discussion, we have in our midst two gay / gay friendly rugby teams – the Sydney Convicts and Melbourne Chargers. The relevance of this is that it shows gay men can play sport and they can play “a man’s game”.
I contend by corollary that if some gay men can play rugby, one form of football, then some gay men can also play any other form of football, such as soccer or AFL football. The rules, skills and equipment differ, but overall they’re still games of strategy, discipline, teamwork, brute force and man on man.
Based on the commonality of rugby and AFL football, I can envisage a situation where there would be some talented gay men in the community who could be recruited into a program to develop their skills sufficiently to bring them to a junior or senior competition level. Admittedly I am fairly naive on the politics and dealings of the footy world but in its simplicity it makes sense to me.
Rather than out the closeted gay men in AFL, the easier path would be to recruit gay men into existing AFL clubs. This would have the bonus of helping make the environment comfortable enough for closeted players to consider coming out. Bring the best men in to play the game, and make the game a friendlier and safer place for all. Everyone’s a winner.