Last year’s Pride Parade in St. Kidla Australia marked a crucial turning point for LGBT equality in Aussie Rules Football, one of the nation’s most popular and influential sports. Alongside openly gay former player Jason Ball, Athlete Ally Ambassador Brock McLean took to the march, generating a plethora of media attention and stimulating discussion throughout “footy” culture Down Under
Progress has been steady and encouraging.
The AFL Players Association has been a key supporter of the Athlete Ally presence at Pride March, managing all of the logistics and through their CEO Matt Finnis, who has personally invited players to come and march. The AFLPA also launched a campaign last year called ‘Footy4IDAHO,’ which included a video with some of the biggest names in the AFL taking a pledge to never use homophobic language, and to raise awareness about the damaging impacts it has on the GLBTI population
This year, McLean and Ball marched once again, under the Athlete Ally banner, and sharing messaging from Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter.
According to Ball, “Australia is one of the highest achieving sporting nations per capita. Sport is in our DNA and it’s embedded in our culture. Our sporting heroes are worshipped and looked up to by more people than our politicians or our television stars. When sporting personalities speak, Australia listens. So therein lies the power of champions like Rugby’s David Pocock or the AFL’s Brock McLean becoming ambassadors for Athlete Ally.”
“As role models they have given more Australians permission to stand up against homophobia and fight for equality, they have been an example of how you don’t have to be gay to care about gay rights – you just have to be a good bloke.”
McLean, who currently plays for Carlton Football Club, said “With myself and Dan Jackson marching at last year’s Pride March… We are now seeing the effects of that, with two more players marching this year. We hope at this rate, numbers keep doubling every year. So more players are talking about it and getting involved, which is ultimately a great thing.”
“Allyship is so important in sport in 2014, as sport is more popular than ever. It is being watched by more people worldwide and a lot of those people are kids. We, as athletes, need to set an example and need to lead the way in showing the world what equality is and what it looks like. Yes we are sports people, but first and foremost we are people. The basis of being a good person should be that we treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation. Our words and actions can be influence millions of people.”