Richmond midfielder Dan Jackson and Carlton’s Brock McLean took the helm of Victoria’s Pride March, marking the first time professional AFL footballers had backed the LGBTI community so publicly.
The two footballers joined openly gay AFL footballer Jason Ball who has pushed for more action against homophobia within the country’s most popular football code.
Ball, who was joined by his Yarra Glen team mates, Jackson and McLean were cheered on as they descended down Fitzroy St and led the parade.
Before the march, Jackson said he was motivated to join the march after reading about Ball and, more recently, McLean’s decision to take part.
“It would be great to get the whole AFL community behind it, it would be small steps at this stage but as Jason said I don’t think we give the younger generation enough credit,” he said.
The headspace ambassador said it was the younger generation that were going to make a difference on homophobia.
“So if we’re a good role model for them now, who knows what we’ll see in the future.”
Mclean said he was marching to throw his support behind the LGBTI community and Ball.
“The AFL and players have been so quiet on this issue for so long, sort of pretending it’s not there but there is an issue there,” he said.
“There is homophobia in sport and it’s starting to get more people to talk about it and more people to voice their opinion and stand up for what’s right and that’s treating everyone equally, I guess that’s a win-win for everyone.”
Last month, Mclean publicly backed Ball’s campaign to tackle homophobia in AFL after his sister came out publicly.
For Ball, he said the real heroes of his story were his straight team mates who would march with him.
“I think it really breaks down that stereotype that footy boys are a bunch of homophobic knuckleheads,” Ball said.
“I think that we sort of don’t give credit to the younger generation these days and how tolerant they are. I know that my footy team mates wanted to do the right thing by me but I just didn’t know what to do because no one talks about this issue.
“There is silence about this issue so hopefully with taking such a strong stand, being at the forefront of the Pride March we can have those conversations.”