AFL player Jason Akermanis has deleted his official Twitter account following a wave of criticism about his comments regarding a gay Victorian country footballer.
Jason Ball, an openly gay player for the Yarra Glen Football Club, took a stand against homophobia in the AFL by launching an online campaign through Change.org to convince the league to play a “No to Homophobia” TV advertisement on grand final day at the MCG, as well as implement a “Pride Round” next year.
The story was given widespread coverage by national media outlets at the weekend.
Akermanis, responding to a tweet about the story on Sunday, bluntly wrote “Who cares?”.
The Brownlow Medallist and former Western Bulldogs player was inundated with angry responses from fellow Twitter users and later deleted the tweet. By Sunday evening his Twitter account had also been deleted.
In May 2010, Akermanis wrote a column in the Herald Sun newspaper that advised young gay players who are thinking of telling the world about their sexual orientation to “forget it” and stay in the closet so as not to cause discomfort for teammates.
Ball, who is preparing to play in his own grand final next Saturday in the Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League, said he thought long and hard before going public on the issue, but said that it was time for someone to speak out.
He said the recent controversy regarding St Kilda player Stephen Milne’s fine for a homophobic insult had been one factor in convincing him to take a stand.
“I have lived and breathed footy since I was five years old, going to Collingwood games with my family and playing it myself – it’s the best game in the world,” Ball said.
“Homophobia is a serious problem in society – and it’s especially prevalent within the football community. The AFL hasn’t really done a lot to address it – it’s almost like they’ve put it in the ‘too hard’ basket.
“The AFL has shown great leadership in stamping out racism in footy. I just feel it’s time for them to do the same in terms of creating a more welcoming environment for footballers and supporters who might be gay.”
Ball (pictured right) said the AFL had released a statement supporting the No To Homophobia TV campaign, but that screening the commercial at the grand final would be a tangible and significant first step in demonstrating it was serious about tackling the issue. He suggested the next step would be to commit to a Pride Round, along the lines of the well-established Indigenous Round.
Beyondblue chairman and former Hawthorn Football Club president Jeff Kennett is supporting the campaign.
You can sign Jason Ball’s online petition here.