Gay Country Footballer Justin Smedley Calls Out AFL Homophobic Slurs As “Unsafe”

Gay Country Footballer Justin Smedley Calls Out AFL Homophobic Slurs As “Unsafe”

A former South Australian country footballer, Justin Smedley, has expressed his concern over the homophobic slurs at the top levels of Australian football, stating that it indicates the sport’s environment is perceived as “unsafe” by those identifying as LGBTQI+.

Smedley, who played in the Murraylands league as an openly gay man, spoke out following an incident involving Port Adelaide’s Jeremy Finlayson using a homophobic slur during a recent match against Essendon.

Gay footballer Justin Smedley reflects on the impact of language

In an interview with Adelaide Now, Justin Smedley emphasized the impact of such slurs on individuals questioning their sexuality within the sport, highlighting the negative message it sends to young players.

“There would be a teenager in Port Adelaide or country SA who is currently questioning their sexuality,” he said.

“They would be very hurt and would have also received a clear message about who is and isn’t accepted in footy.”

Reflecting on his own experiences, Smedley recounted the anxiety he felt when encountering homophobic comments while playing country football.

Though he does not believe there is active hatred for gay men in the sport, he pointed out that the use of language such as the one used by Finlayson can position gay men as inferior to straight men.

Smedley agreed with AFL stars Trent Cotchin and Joel Selwood’s concerns regarding the lack of openly gay players in the AFL.

He believes that the absence of openly gay players indicates a community and social environment perceived as unsafe by those who identify as gay.

“There will be hurt and anxiety for those AFL players who do internally identify as gay or bisexual within the AFL,” he to told Adelaide Now.

“I think the fact that there is not a single player who identifies as gay in the AFL is pretty telling of a community and a social environment that is perceived to be unsafe by those who do identify as gay. If the population of AFL players is consistent with the statistics of gay men in Australia, we can’t pretend that gay men aren’t already playing the game.”

“I think it is a matter of time … we need more time for attitudes and values to change.”

Finlayson faces a three-match suspension for homophobic slur

Port Adelaide AFL player Jeremy Finlayson faced a three-match suspension for his use of a homophobic slur during the game on April 5th.

Additionally, Finlayson must complete and pay for a Pride in Sport education course.

The AFL cited ‘Conduct Unbecoming’ in its judgment against Finlayson, noting his immediate apology and contrition in their decision-making process.

AFL General Counsel Stephen Meade reaffirmed the League’s commitment to supporting the LGBTQI+ community and emphasized that homophobia has no place in the game or society.

“We want all people in LGBTQI+ communities to feel safe playing or attending our games,” Meade said.

Port Adelaide FC Chairman David Koch issued an apology on behalf of the club to the Essendon player, the club’s community, and the LGBTQIA+ community, acknowledging the incident’s gravity and reiterating the club’s values.

Finlayson reportedly realized his error immediately and self-reported the slur after using it.

He apologized to the Essendon player involved at the end of the game and took full responsibility for his actions while awaiting the AFL’s decision on his punishment.

This incident serves as a reminder that while strides have been made towards inclusivity in Australian football, more work is needed to create a safe and welcoming environment for all players, regardless of their sexuality.

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2 responses to “Gay Country Footballer Justin Smedley Calls Out AFL Homophobic Slurs As “Unsafe””

  1. it is so entrenched .. among fans & players .. and will take decades to chip away at. thank god – again – for the lesbian presence within the sport (onfield and admin) as without this progress would be incredibly slow.

  2. I still remember the homophobic slur that a commentator made towards Brian Page 10 years ago.