The Western Bulldogs Football Club says it will not comment further on reports club officials had previously approved Jason Akermanis’ now controversial column before it was published. Western Bulldogs media officer David McNamara told Sydney Star Observer the club had “no comment” on the matter or whether Akermanis would be fined or reprimanded for his remarks that gay AFL players should stay in the closet.
“The club does not agree with the views expressed by Jason Akermanis in relation to the potentially negative impact an openly gay footballer would have on a club,” the Bulldogs said in a statement the day Akermanis’ article appeared in the Herald Sun (20/5).
The Herald Sun this week revealed that the opinion piece had been “signed off” by the club before being sent for publication.
“Let’s be clear here, the club signed off on the much harder version of the column,” journalist, and ghost writer for the Akermanis piece, Jon Anderson said.
Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade — who helped launch the Come Out To Play study on homophobia in sport last week — has distanced himself from Akermanis’ remarks saying they were “misplaced” and “poorly articulated”.
Western Bulldogs CEO Campbell Rose told gay radio station JOY 94.9 at the weekend that Akermanis’ views were “his personal opinion and not that of our club”.
No mention was made of the club approving the piece for publication.
“I personally think and I know on behalf of our club … Jason’s views are a bit behind the times,” Rose said on JOY.
The Come Out To Play study found that of 307 LGBT people surveyed, 26 percent of men and 9.9 percent of women said there were sports they would like to play but wouldn’t because they feared abuse.
The sports men wanted to play but did not were Aussie Rules football (45 percent) followed by rugby (17.5 percent) and soccer (10 percent).
Women also named Aussie Rules (42.9 percent) as the sport they wanted to play but wouldn’t.
Almost half — or 46 percent — of the respondents were not out in mainstream sports.
Speaking at the study launch, Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity commissioner Dr Helen Szoke said the report indicated systemic barriers to the LGBT community participating in sport.
“When we read the research … we have to say why haven’t the interests of the LGBTI community been brought into the headlines before now?”
Showing his support for the report, newly ‘out’ former Olympic swimmer Daniel Kowalski said he hopes the report encourages a positive shift of thinking.
“The change doesn’t come about from one individual, it comes about from a whole community,” he said.