“I’d like to tell you what it’s like being a gay footy player”

This is a terrifying petition to write. But it’s important. I’d like to tell you what it’s like being a gay footy player, because today there’s a real chance we could begin to change the culture of homophobia in the AFL – Jason Ball – Change.org/afl

Young footballer Jason Ball has been all across radio, television and social media after launching a campaign to fight homophobia in the Australian Football League.

Australian sport has been grappling with significant cultural change in the last few decades. Sport has long been tied to traditional masculinity and as the community has come to terms with a changing society often sport has played a significant role in creating change.

Australian culture looks up to our sportspeople. Sport plays a huge part in our lives – from children and teenagers who play sport at school to the big arena matches that draw tens of thousands of cheering spectators every weekend. Whether they realise it or not, our sportspeople are often a litmus test for the rest of our society.

Jason’s story is an important one because it shows our sporting communities that sexuality is not relevant to a person’s sporting ability. It shows our sporting communities that it is possible to accept and understand sexual diversity. In Jason’s words:

It was my teammates who eventually told me they knew I was gay, and that it wasn’t an issue for them. I think I’m pretty lucky to have such a supportive group of players around me – especially in a regional town. It could have gone the other way – and it’s no wonder to me that there are no openly gay players in the AFL. I know how they feel. But I think the players are ready for change. The clubs are ready for change. The supporters are ready for change. We just need the AFL to lead and help shift the sporting culture so that players and fans like me can openly be who we are without fear.

So Jason  is calling upon the Australian public to petition the AFL for change. Whilst online petitions have often been related to “slacktivism” in the community, what is more important here is the conversation that Ball has created. Where sexual diversity in sport has been largely relegated to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” style environment, Jason is making a clear challenge to the culture.

Whether you’re a sports fan or not one thing cannot be denied – sport has a significant power and influence in our community. Sport has an important role to play in social change. The Australian Football League can be a sport for ALL Australians – it can make our community a better place.

You can support Jason by signing the petition, joining the conversation on Twitter with #aflpride and most of all – calling for change on a local level. Create inclusive environments in your local sport and cultural clubs, challenge and prevent homophobia from occurring in the first place – don’t leave all the work up to the AFL. We all have a role to play in challenging homophobia.

Good luck to you Jason and thanks for sharing your story. Your story matters.

Change.org petition

Jason Ball – Twitter

The Age – “I didn’t know any footballers who were gay”

7 News Report

– Jonathan Brown

Jonathan is the Creative Director of We Matter Media. You can follow him @JB_AU