By Angela Cameron
This is something I have thought about for a long time and it probably wasn’t until the third season of the AFLW, did I notice that nobody was making a big deal about two women who love each other kiss, unlike the first AFLW awards night.
However the AFL (mens) is different, we have had a couple of men “come out” after they finished and I have to say the way Dani Laidley was outed after police leaked a photo was heartbreaking but the response by the majority of the public and more importantly the AFL as a whole was somewhat heart warming.
Then cross code we had Josh Cavallo who plays for Adelaide United come out, his club, the fans all stood by him. I had the privilege along with a couple of other Rainbow Crows meeting Josh at the start of the season, he seemed overwhelmed and wasn’t quite ready to have a photo with our beautiful flag. Then I heard that during a game with our nemesis the Melbourne Victory at their home turf, Josh got hurt and when walking back to the bench the homophobic slurs came from some of the Melbourne Victory fans. Josh told the support team, it was then investigated by the A League and Melbourne Victory were fined and they also took action against the supporters. The other thing that came out of this was the very first in the world Pride Match in Soccer, for both the men’s and the women’s teams it was amazing, the Red Army (supporter group) had rainbow flares, the club had merchandise, all this because Josh was brave enough to be the only player (soccer player) to stand up and say “I’m gay”. I was in the crowd that night and the usual banter was going on around us and then I heard the older people behind us saying that Josh was only playing because it was a “pink” game, I turned around and before I could say anything they said “oh that’s not want he meant”. They could see I wasn’t impressed and they could clearly see that I was part of the rainbow family.
The next time I went to a game I was so happy to see that Josh was just another person in the team all the kids wanting to meet Josh get his signature and not because he was gay but because he was another person on the team. I could see in the future nobody cared that there was a gay footballer, if only it was that easy.
Josh has also been recognised for his contributions as a role model in elite men’s sport and as a champion for equality in the broader community with an honorary doctorate from Flinders University.
The CEO of Adelaide United has said the main thing he would have done differently, holding a pride game and making a stand up against homophobia was that he wished they had done it sooner He wished they had done it before a player came out, so that the league and clubs were educated and ready to openly welcome a gay player and that Josh didn’t have to be so brave and didn’t have to receive the homophobia from the public that came along with the process.
As we are coming up to IDAHOBIT I think about how far we have come and how far we still have to go and I know it starts with groups like the Rainbow Crows and other queer supporter groups to stand strong and show our athletes that we support them, while they cannot be who they want to be for fear of what might happen, we will be visible for them and we will not stand for any sort of homophobia, biphobia, intersexism and transphobia.
National Sporting bodies including the AFL should be listening to the learnings of Adelaide United, training staff at clubs and security at venues on LGBTIQA+ inclusion. Sporting bodies need to take appropriate steps on creating public awareness of the importance of inclusion and make a strong stand against homophobia so that a male player can feel comfortable being their true self if they so wish and not have to deal with negative repercussions from doing.