The way Adelaide United Football Club has handled a homophobic Twitter post by one of its players is a textbook example of how to respond in the wrong way.
On November 5, after referee Ben Williams sent off two Melbourne Victory players during a game against the Brisbane Roar, Adelaide United player Antony Golec tweeted “Ben Williams you are gay, biggest homo going
around, you gypsy”.
Adelaide United and Football Federation Australia (FFA) reacted quickly once the tweet was picked up by media, but their response leaves a lot to be desired.
The club released a statement in which it made known that Golec had been directed to apologise to Williams, “and required to attend educational courses as the club and PFA see appropriate to reinforce the mutual rejection of inappropriate use of demeaning language towards not only match officials but all members of our community”.
They then sealed the conversation shut with “neither Antony nor the club will be making any further comment regarding this incident”.
At a press conference on Monday, Golec apologised to Williams again, while reading from a prepared statement.
“I accept without reservation what I did was foolish and that as a consequence Ben Williams has every right to feel insulted and aggrieved.”
Nobody should have their sexuality deliberately misidentified or maliciously called into question.
But when you merely apologise for calling someone gay, but don’t address the issue of the homophobic nature of the comment, all you do is reinforce the notion that being gay is something that people should have to apologise for.
It’s an issue that soccer in Australia is definitely behind on when compared to other major sports codes.
It’s telling that while dozens of players from Australia’s rugby codes have participated in the This Is Oz project in three years, not one professional-level soccer player has.
Despite having a four-paragraph policy addressing discrimination against transgender people and a three-paragraph policy explaining why players and (mostly male) coaches should not become romantically involved, homophobia rates just a four-word mention in FFA’s general Anti-Harassment Policy — the only mention it gets in the members’ code of conduct.
It’s time for the FFA to become more proactive on this issue by developing a formal policy and actively reaching out to the LGBTI community.
And ironically, their best choice for an ambassador plays on Golec’s team.
Ukrainian-born Evgeniy Levchenko, who joined Adelaide United this year by way of the Netherlands, has been an outspoken advocate against homophobia in the game after a former clubmate came out to him and he heard about the suicide of Justin Fashanu, the first professional footballer to come out in 1990.
There’s your star pick right there.