Homophobic abuse widespread in Australian sport16 July 2014

Eighty-fivepercentoftheAustraliangayandbisexualathleteshaveexperiencedorwitnessedhomophobicabuse,eitherwhileplayingorasaspectator,accordingtoanewstudythatrevealswidespreaddiscriminationisforcingpeopleoutofthecountry’ssport.

The most common form of homophobia was verbal abuse, with 82% saying they had heard or been the target of slurs, including “fag”, “dyke” or “poofter”, followed by homophobic jokes and casual comments such as “that’s so gay”.

Seventy-five percent of the survey’s heterosexual respondents also revealed they had been subjected to homophobic abuse.

Of those who said they had been targeted, 13% suffered physical assaults.

The Out on the Fields study, commissioned by the organisers of the Bingham Cup – the Gay Rugby World Cup, involved 2,500 people at all levels of Australian sport and surveyed equal numbers of gay and straight participants, aged 15 upwards.

It found that one in five gay and lesbian participants had been excluded from social groups because of their sexuality and that gay men were more likely to be targeted than women.

The study also revealed that one in four straight men had been the target of homophobia.

Sixty-four percent of gay and lesbian respondents stressed homophobia was more common in sporting environments than in other areas of society.

Rugby league commentator apologises for homophobic remark
The findings come days after Australia’s Channel 7 rugby league commentator Brian Taylor called Geelong defender Harry Taylor a “big poofter” live on a pre-game broadcast (12 July).

At half-time, the commentator apologised for the remarks, which caused widespread outrage on social media.

“To all of the people who thought that Brian Taylor’s comments weren’t a big deal, this research shows that homophobic language has a profound impact on our sporting culture,” said Jason Ball, Yarra Glen centre half-back and the first openly gay Australian rules footballer at any level of the game.

“Until we create a more inclusive sporting environment, people will feel forced to stay in the closet until their careers are over.”

On Sunday night, 13 July, the Australian Olympic swimming legend Ian Thorpe revealed he is gay and had feared the consequences of coming out.

He highlighted that one of the reasons he had not come out earlier was because he was worried Australia would not accept a gay Olympic champion.

“Part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay,” he said.

Addressing the problem
Earlier this year, the organisers of the Bingham Cup brought together representatives of Australia’s major sports codes, including Australian Rugby Union (ARU), the Australian Football League (AFL), the Football Federation Australia (FFA) and Cricket Australia, to collectively commit to tackling discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The study presented yesterday is the first phase of what hopes to become an international survey of homophobia in sport.

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