AFL footballer Jason Akermanis has provoked widespread anger over comments he made in an opinion piece in Melbourne’s Herald Sun last Thursday.
In a column titled ‘Stay in the closet’, Akermanis advised any gay AFL players thinking of coming out to “forget it”, saying the fallout could “break the fabric of the club”.
“I believe it would cause discomfort in that [locker room] environment should someone declare himself gay,” he wrote.
Akermanis’ comments have provoked outrage and disappointment from both the sporting and GLBTI communities. His own club, the Western Bulldogs, and the AFL have distanced themselves from him, saying openly gay players are welcome in the AFL.
Newly-out Olympian Daniel Kowalski reacted strongly to the column, telling Triple M in a radio interview, “I’m disappointed. I’m mad. I’m angry. I’m sad. When you get comments like that from a guy of his stature, why would you come out?”
Family Planning Victoria CEO Lynne Jordan said Akermanis was “sending a misguided and negative message to his teammates and the general community,” while ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill described his comments as “ignorant and dangerous”.
Freezone Volleyball president Wally Salinger told Sydney Star Observer that Akermanis could potentially be in breach of the AFL’s code of conduct.
“Should there ever be a barrier to players being themselves — whether that is based on sexuality, ethnicity or religion — the AFL would be in breach of legislation, and its own code of conduct. The conformity battle that confronts teenagers, whose reality is often consumed by a passion such as sport, is not helped by AFL role models publicly pleading that gays should hide.”
Akermanis himself dismissed the backlash in an interview with Melbourne Talk Radio the day after the column was published. “There’s articles everywhere written from these guys and all of them, of course, are gay so they think they know everything,” he said.

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