Saturday, 13 August 2016

First AFL Pride game tonight - gay footy player Jason Ball comments

In an indication of just how accepted the LGBT are in Australia today (despite the few bitter white middle aged men in Canberra) the first AFL Pride football match will take place tonight. It is an historic event, being that footy in particular has traditionally been a bastion of heterosexuality and homophobia.

This whole thing was started by gay footballer Jason Ball who started a petition a while back calling for the AFL to do more to address homophobia in the sport and an AFL Pride round. Years ago this would have been laughed at and likely mocked, but it's now going ahead tonight. 

Thank you AFL from all LGBT everywhere in supporting us and raising awareness of us. To a section of society that is most probably largely ignorant about our issues.

Jason Ball comments on his feelings about it all now:
Growing up, the footy club was the one place I thought I'd never be accepted. Homophobic language was routinely used on the field and in the stands and it left me scared to be myself. Struggling in silence with my identity caused me so much heartache and pushed me to a very dark place. 

This week, I was blown away as the leaders of our national game proudly stood together to celebrate and welcome the LGBTI community. I stood in awe as I watched rainbow flags raised above AFL House. And I have been humbled and inspired to hear elite AFL players speak to the national media about the shocking suicide rates amongst LGBTI Australians and how sport has a role to play in tackling this problem. 

It has been an extraordinary week, but it is only the beginning. 

On Saturday night, the 50m lines at Etihad Stadium will be painted in rainbow colours – the international symbol of gay pride. St Kilda players will wear jumpers with rainbow numbers, Sydney players will wear rainbow socks, and goal umpires will use rainbow flags. 

The broadcast of the game on Channel 7 will feature conversations to raise awareness about the damaging impact of homophobic language in sport, and include stories from the LGBTI community to help make the game of AFL that we all love welcoming and inclusive for everyone. 

I have no doubt that the #PrideGame and the community discussion generated around it will change lives. 

None of this could have happened without your support of my campaign on back in 2012. Then, I was a lone voice. But your encouragement gave me the confidence that I was on the right side of history, and it pushed the AFL to act.

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