SAM Newman has drawn the ire of the LGBTI and wider community after he described a shared kiss between two men on TV as “annoyingly gratuitous”.

The co-host of the AFL Footy Show made the comments during last night’s episode, after footage was shown of openly-gay gridiron athlete Michael Sam kissing his partner in celebration of his historic draft pick into the NFL – the first for an openly-gay man in the major league.

“That is just an annoyingly gratuitous act,” Newman said.

After immediate interjections from his fellow hosts Garry Lyon and James Brayshaw, Newman (pictured) added: “Excuse me, at the risk of being branded no heterosexuals do that when they get drafted… it was a gratuitous act. Annoying gratuitous.”

Lyon and Brayshaw were quick to call the 68-year-old “homophobic” and “off the pace” and boos from many in the audience followed his remarks.

Lyon disagreed with Newman’s statement about heterosexual athletes.

“You always see shots of players drafted in basketball or footy, whether they’re with their girlfriends, wives, partners — of course they embrace and kiss,” he said.

Newman responded: “Now we’re resigned to do what we’re actually doing, which is talking about it.”

Newman’s comments come in light of a recent major campaign by several leading Australian sporting bodies in efforts to combat homophobia in sport and an incident involving a NSW NRL player who used a homophobic slur on another player.

Openly-gay Aussie Rules player Jason Ball said that Newman’s comments highlighted why such a campaign was started: to combat negative views and treatment of the LGBTI community to improve the lives of youths who are faced with disproportionate rates of depression and suicide.

“It’s offensive that a gay kiss is not held to the same standards as a straight one. There’s no way Newman would ever have a problem if it was a male player kissing his girlfriend,” Ball told the Star Observer.

“It’s incredibly naïve to think heterosexual players don’t kiss their partners… it’s a brilliant example of how out of date his views are.”

Ball spoke of an encouraging encounter he had with Newman once after a speech he gave about homophobia in sport, where he was approached by Newman who congratulated him on his talk and shook his hand.

“These comments are really disappointing and surprising following my experience with Newman. I really saw and hoped that he was someone who had changed,” Ball said.

Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 president Andrew Purchas called Newman’s comments “completely ignorant and out of step with the community”.

“He would never see a straight kiss as gratuitous… and it was fantastic that the audience and co-hosts were quick to condemn him,” Purchas told the Star Observer.

“His remarks are in no way going to help people struggling with their sexuality and whilst there was quick criticism of him, it doesn’t negate the fact that the comments were made and further add to negative views already out there. This will just further compound things.

“It’s really a sad reflection on the kind of person Newman is. He’s hiding under a rock.”

Speaking to Ball’s experience with Newman in person, Purchas said that it was indicative of some issues people have within the community.

“Newman was happy to shake Jason’s hand and all that, seeing someone in flesh and blood is okay. It makes it harder to express homophobic views,” Purchas said.

“However, when those people are just images on TV and they aren’t really seen as ‘real’, internal homophobia comes to the floor.

“There’s a freedom to spout anti-gay remarks when you aren’t confronted with a gay person. Newman loves to play up to a persona he’s created for himself but these are genuinely-held beliefs and regardless of intent, he’s abused his position to cause damage.

Reactions on social media have also been critical of Newman.

The AFL has condemned Newman’s comments and reaffirmed its commitment to eradicating homophobia in AFL and other sporting codes.

“The AFL continues to promote inclusion and to challenge homophobia at all levels through education, through our rules and policies, and through support for awareness raising initiatives such as the Bingham Cup, the Pride Cup and the ‘IDAHO 4 Footy’ campaign, amongst others,” a AFL spokesperson told the Star Observer.

“Discrimination and vilification in sport and the broader community is never acceptable. Sam Newman does not speak for the AFL.”

The Star Observer contacted Channel 9, which airs the Footy Show, to obtain a response from Newman. A spokesperson advised that the matter “was dealt with on the show”.

(Main image source: Channel 9 via YouTube)

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