The Australian Football League (AFL) has “declared war” on homophobia in a new initiative.
League chief Andrew Demetriou, Olympic flag bearer Lauren Jackson and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire will lead the campaign to change attitudes towards LGBT people in sport and the workplace.
The campaign will begin in the wake of a homophobic slur recently made by Stephen Milne – who plays for St Kilda’s – against Harry O’Brien of Collingwood Magpies.
As reported by Aaron Langmaid in the Herald Sun, the initiative will be pushed via year-long TV and social media campaign, which will encourage people to stand up and make a difference.
In a letter, Mr Demetriou said discrimination should not be tolerated and that it was everyone’s responsibility to tackle such negative attitudes and behaviour.
He added that the “No to Homophobia” initiative was of great importance and had the full weight of the AFL industry behind it.
He said: “A campaign of this nature promoting respect for each other, healthy relationships and a safe, inclusive environment is imperative if we are to affect positive cultural change.
“We believe the AFL is one game for all Australians.
“Through both our actions and the guidelines that govern our game, we are committed to providing a truly inclusive, safe and welcoming environment that fosters healthy, respectful relationships on and off the field.”
A survey by Australian body Gay and Lesbian Health revealed that more than a quarter of openly LGBT men and women were verbally abused in the past year in the state of Victoria.
Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said the state’s police force were against all forms of violence, bullying and intimidation.
“There are laws in place to protect the rights of all Victorians and we encourage people to report any acts to police,” he said.
The campaign is to be launched today, supported by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.
The AFL is a major backer of the campaign, along with the State Government, mental health advocates and the police force.