AFL's Pride March presence
Pride March Victoria has welcomed the involvement of the AFL in this year’s march as the league moves to promote its message against homophobia in football.
As part of its ongoing measures to address homophobia, the AFL has produced a documentary to educate trainee players on the issue and hopes players will take part in next week's Pride March. Featuring Jason Ball, the documentary is part of the league's Respect and Responsibility program and will be shown to all first-to-third-year players, educating them on the impact of homophobia.
Following the appearance of Ball with fellow footballers including Carlton's Brock McLean in last year's Pride March, the AFL Players Association has invited many players to take part in the march on February 2. McLean will march again, this time with Athlete Ally, the international organisation educating the sporting community towards ending homophobia and transphobia.
AFL Players Association chief executive Matt Finnis, who marched last year said he hoped many players would take up the invitation.
“What we've learnt from getting to know people like Jason Ball is the impact that quite a small effort and show of support can have” he said.
“We're very aware of some of the anxieties and stresses that young gay people deal with around their sexuality, and hopefully by showing their respect and support, AFL players can just ease some of that anxiety for some people.”
“It is our allies that are going to take the conversation outside of our own LGBTI community and into the greater mainstream community,” Pride March president Matt Renwick told MCV.
Renwick said the involvement of organisations like the AFL demonstrated the changing nature of the discussion around LGBTI rights since the march began 19 years ago.
“We didn't have the rights then we have today,” he said.
“And it was about marching in the streets, showing our pride and being a community that demanded to be heard.
“It's evolved into the stage where we can have these sorts of discussions where AFL footballers take part. It will continue to evolve and will continue to raise and highlight these issues in the future.”
Renwick said that following the loss incurred after the rain affected the 2012 after party the board wondered if the march was relevant any more but with events like Jason Ball, highlighting homophobia in sport and the No To Homophobia campaign were more aspects relevant to the community and made apparent at Pride March.
“Bi-phobia and transphobia will probably be the next aspect to tackle and is where an organisation like ours can take part.”