Gay rights advocates have warned of the community harm from anti-gay slurs in sport following St Kilda Football Club forward Stephen Milne’s $3,000 fine for a homophobic taunt against an opposing player earlier this month.
Milne allegedly called Collingwood player Harry O’Brien a “f—— homo” during a game at the MCG.
It’s the second time Milne has made homophobic comments, following a $3,000 fine in 2010 for allegedly directing homophobic abuse at Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse.
Milne escaped a suspension but his club slapped him with a fine for breaching the AFL Players’ Code of Conduct and the AFL’s Policy on Discrimination and Vilification.
He will also have to undergo an AFL education program.
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) co-convener Anna Brown told the Star Observer homophobic abuse sent a negative message to the LGBTI community.
“It doesn’t matter if a player is gay or straight, homophobic taunts and abuse are offensive and inappropriate, and these sorts of attitudes cause real harm to the GLBTI community,” she said.
O’Brien reportedly told officials he was not offended by the taunt and neither himself nor his club wanted to pursue the matter.
O’Brien told Fox FM he did not make a formal complaint because he had also used that language before, off the field, and said perhaps this was a wake-up call to everyone.
Last year, a survey of more than 300 LGBT people found almost half of the participants had experienced verbal homophobia.
The 2011 Come Out To Play report investigated the experience of LGBTI people in sports in Australia and found homophobia affected almost all of the participants.
Almost half of the survey group were not ‘out’ in mainstream sporting clubs.
AFL was the most common sport men wanted to play but didn’t due to their sexuality.
Caroline Symons, the report’s lead author, told the Star Observer the club’s actions were a positive step.
“The AFL is the biggest game in town – and should be inclusive of all,” she said.
“It will take a fair bit of cultural change for the game to be fully inclusive of LGBT people – but this action of sanctioning homophobic abuse on the field by the AFL is a positive step.”
AFL general manager Adrian Anderson said the AFL viewed the verbal altercation seriously and homophobic insults were not acceptable.
Milne has apologised for his comments and any offence caused.
Brown said her group would be writing to the AFL, encouraging them to get behind the upcoming No To Homophobia initiative.
Victorian LGBTI community groups including the VGLRL will be launching the No To Homophobia campaign later this month.