ON the eve of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) former Australian international cricketer Brett Lee exclusively told the Star Observer of his shock at recent research that showed homophobia in sport was rife and compared anti-gay slurs on the pitch to racism.
Lee, who helped Australia win the cricket world cup on two occasions, made the comments at an event on Friday to mark IDAHOT organised by Cricket Australia and the Commonwealth Bank’s LGBTI employee group.
The survey also showed 85 per cent of gay people would fear for their safety as spectators if their sexuality was obvious, while only two per cent believed sport was completely accepting of LGB people.
“It’s horrible, absolutely horrible,” Lee said of the results.
“It doesn’t matter what someone’s preference is, they should feel comfortable and should be able to go to work or play in a sporting team and not be judged.”
The bowler said he supported the aims of IDAHOT “100 per cent” and dismissed criticism from some commentators and former players who suggested anti-gay slurs were just a harmless part of the culture of the game.
“You play tough, hard, competitive sport but if you’re teasing someone about their sexuality or if you’re racially vilifying someone I think it’s on the same border line and you don’t cross that line,” he said.
Talking at the bank’s Sydney headquarters, Lee said: “People say ‘toughen up’ but unless you’ve been in that situation it’s really hard to judge how someone is feeling so let’s make everyone feel comfortable.”
He added that swimmer Ian Thorpe and Australian women’s international cricketer Alex Blackwell were role models.
“A lot of people are really proud of what [Alex’s] done,” Lee said.
“She’s come out and she’s obviously very comfortable with that and she wants to spread the news its fine.”
Lee’s comments come as three rugby stars joined forces to criticise homophobia in team sports.
Former Wallabies captain and rugby union legend John Eales, English player James Haskell and Welsh star Alex Cuthbert released a statement saying everyone should be able to play and enjoy sport without fear of discrimination.
“We want to send a strong message to everyone involved in sport that homophobic language and behaviour is not acceptable,” the statement read.
The head of Commonwealth Bank’s Unity LGBTI staff network, David Brine, said they had invited Lee to spearhead the IDAHOT awareness-raising event because it took people of his stature, and other straight allies such as the ACT Brumbies David Pocock, to bring about societal change.
The bank used Lee’s visit to raise money for Sydney-based trans* support service the Gender Centre.