An Australian football team whose official fan group waves homophobic banners and sells them as merchandise has been condemned by one the country’s sporting stars.
In February, Western Sydney Wanderers’ supporters organisation the Red Black Bloc unveiled a banner depicting the manager of rivals Sydney FC, Graham Arnold, performing oral sex.
It was branded homophobic by the Football Federation Australia, prompted a $20,000 fine, led Western Sydney University to pull its sponsorship and the club to ban 14 fans for 18 months.
Chief executive John Tsatsimas also said the club was committed to monitoring homophobic behaviour at matches and on social media, according to the Guardian.
But RBB – a non-profit organisation – has kept posting the homophobic oral sex images to social media, and is even advertising merchandise emblazoned with them.
The offensive banner was RBB’s pinned tweet until it was taken off yesterday, and several of the images are still present on the group’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
Michelle Heyman, an out gay footballer who has played 53 times for the national side, said the group’s bigoted defiance “breaks my heart”.
“For this to still be online after three months, it’s just a joke and something like this should never happen.
“It’s very disappointing that not enough has been done,” the Canberra United co-captain added.
At the inaugural Pride in Sport awards today, Australian cricket vice-captain Alex Blackwell said the FFA needed to take “action not words”.
“The fact that it is a club-sanctioned supporters group means that the Wanderers have put their trust in those people to uphold the values of their brand and their club, and that hasn’t happened.
“I would expect the Wanderers would be disappointed,” she added.
“Their action has to be swift and I don’t believe that to have been the case.
“To have a pinned tweet remaining there for far too long, there needed to be action coming directly from the top, to take a strong leadership position that we are a sport for everyone and will not tolerate prejudice.”
Responding to the FFA’s decision to censure WSW and RBB members for the homophobic banner, the RBB Facebook group wrote that “football in this country is in the wrong hands.
“Football belongs to the people,” the fans wrote, “not a dictatorial body or the likes of so called expert commentators. F*** off with your pandering to mainstream media.
“But, since this banner has been so popular, we are considering a new line of relevant merchandise, and as everyone has an opinion, let us know yours regarding the merch.”
— RBB Official (@RBB_net) February 20, 2017
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Britain also suffers from homophobic fans, with supporters’ attitudes seen as one of the main reasons a gay footballer has never come out in the Premier League.
A clear majority of Australians are in favour of legalising same-sex marriage.
Earlier this month, the Australian government once again allocated money – in this case $170 million – towards holding a nationwide plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
After his narrow victory in July’s election, right-wing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged to bring a public plebiscite as soon as possible.
But a national vote is not necessary to make same-sex marriage legal in the country, and efforts to bring one about have so far been rejected.
A clear majority of MPs and Senators are in favour of same-sex marriage, with the balance shifting decisively in last year’s federal election.
Despite this, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has repeatedly blocked a parliamentary vote on the issue, and has instead focused on attempting to conduct a costly, non-binding public vote.
Opposition parties have stopped any proposed plebiscite, reasoning that since the majority of the public and parliament wants same-sex marriage, it should be decided in parliament.