AFL players have this week publicly come out to say homophobia has no place in football.

Holding placards with anti-homophobia messages and support for gay inclusion, 27 players, coaches and former football greats have thrown their support behind the AFL Players Association’s new inclusion and diversity campaign.

AFL Players Association general manager Dr Pippa Grange told Southern Star the project was about creating a “live” dialogue.

“It’s really about an open invitation for football people, whether players or fans, that they should be free to be who they are,” she said.

“However you cut the statistics, there’s likely to be gay people in football at some point across the different levels of football.

“That’s the way it’s going to be in any sort of community activity, including sport, so why would we presume it isn’t the case for football?”

Grange said she received warm support from all players and coaches she approached to take part.

“The beauty of this is it’s not off the back of a watershed crisis, we’ve just chosen to do it anyway,” she said.

“What we want to do is have a landscape where it’s so normal, it’s so obvious that we don’t tolerate homophobia because it’s unacceptable.”

GLBTI rights advocate Rob Mitchell, who has been assisting the AFL Players Association to roll out the campaign, said he strongly applauds the public message.

“The role-modelling they’re giving in the broader community is invaluable, not only to GLBTI youth but to youth generally on what sort of behavior is not only expected, but desirable,” he told Southern Star.

“What we’ve got to do is lower the perceived hostility towards people who aren’t straight in sport to the point where people who aren’t straight say, ‘Okay, I’m gay, but if people find out about that, they’re going to react the same way as if they know I’m left-handed or left-footed’.”

The campaign has been rolled out against the backdrop of International Day Against Homophobia next month.

Some of those taking part include Brownlow medallists Adam Goodes and Jimmy Bartel; Fremantle’s Aaron Sandilands; Brisane Lions’, Luke Power; Geelong’s Joel Selwood; Sydney Swans coach Paul Roos; Geelong coach Bomber Thompson; former Melbourne coach Neil Balme; and four-time premiership coach David Parkin.

Official photos: http://www.sstar.net.au/scene?set=72157623709870429

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