A veteran star of Australian Rules football has been attacked for saying gay players should stay in the closet.
Western Bulldogs star Jason Akermanis was commenting on rumours that a player was about to be the first to come out.
He wrote in his Herald-Sun newspaper column: “If a player wants to out himself, then I say good luck.
“But I believe the world of AFL (Australian Football League) footy is not ready for it. To come out is unnecessary for a lot of reasons.
“Imagine the publicity associated with a current player admitting he’s gay. It would be international news and could break the fabric of a club.”
Akermanis was roundly criticised for the remarks, with Olympic swimmer Daniel Kowalski, who recently came out, saying he was angry.
Kowalski told Triple M radio: “I’m disappointed, I’m mad, I’m angry, I’m sad.
“When you get comments like that from a guy of his stature, why would you come out?”
Sydney coach Paul Roos said Akermanis’ views were “bizarre” and 60 years out of date.
“If any one of our players happened to be gay or came out, he wouldn’t be alienated by this group of players, I know that,” Roos said.
“In today’s day and age, it’s reasonably irresponsible, what Jason’s said this morning and hopefully it doesn’t reflect the views of the majority of people in the AFL.”
Magpies player Heath Shaw weighed in saying that he believed few players would care about their teammates’ sexual orientation.
“There are different characters at every footy club and I don’t think that would worry too many people in the AFL ranks at all,” he said.
Akermanis has defended his remarks in interviews and told Channel Nine last night that he was not homophobic but it would be unsafe for a player to come out in the AFL.
Gay rights activist Gary Burns, who recently complained over comments made by Mike Molloy and Eddie McGuire about “gay” ice skaters, said he was angry at Akermanis.
“He is a first class boof head,” Mr Burns said.
“I may be an old queen but Mr Akermanis is carrying on like a princess.
“These people need to take responsibility for what they say.”