Footy players out and proud

Eddie McGuire

Eddie Macguire – Collingwood AFL Club



From: Sunday Herald Sun
May 23, 2010 12:00AM

JASON Akermanis sparked a furore during the week when he said it would be better for a gay footballer to stay in the closet than to “out himself” and face recrimination.

While I disagree on many levels with what Aker said, it is interesting that many people still feel intimidated by alternative lifestyles in this country.

For a nation that bangs on about the spirit of the Anzacs and how they sacrificed so much so that we could live in freedom, we still appear to blanch at anything outside the mainstream.

“Ban the burqa”, “stay in the closet”, “send back the boat people” … is it any wonder we look like a bunch of rednecks?

Of course “fear politics” and opinion polls play a major role in generating this type of paranoia.

But just as disturbing as these opinions may appear, by and large, Australia remains one of the friendliest countries in the world.

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Our media may be heading towards a new level of triviality, but, when push comes to shove, Australians remain compassionate and accommodating people.

What we are prone to do is shoot first and ask questions later.

Akermanis’s comments reflect a real belief within the straight world, particularly in blue-collar communities, that gay men are a bunch of promiscuous sex maniacs.

Such a belief is not helped by the fact that the only exposure many straight people have to the gay world is through the telecast of the flamboyant Sydney Gay Mardi Gras.

Recently, I was interviewed on radio by Addam Stobbs of gay radio station JOY FM and I made the point that while it was understandable for the gay community to be sensitive to jokes made at their expense, it may be a double standard for the gay community to take the mickey out of themselves, as well as straight and religious icons.

His honest reply was that it was OK for them to have fun at their own expense, but not for it to be open season from outsiders. And that is the dilemma. Parts of the gay community are still distrustful, with good reason, of those who claim to be friends, yet still joke at their expense.

Take, for example, the furore over Mick Molloy‘s and my comments at the Winter Olympics.

Activist Gary Burns, who first lodged a complaint against Mick and me at the Human Rights Commission, did so to protect young gay men who are still bashed and vilified for just being themselves.

I regard Mr Burns as a crusader for his cause and if a few people have to cop a whack along the way, then so be it.

Once he understood the motivation behind our comments, Mr Burns was magnanimous enough to withdraw the complaint after meeting with me.

And here’s the point: once he trusted me, we were able to empathise with each other.

Similarly, my outrage at being wrongly accused as a homophobe dissipated when I realised his position was based on bringing about fairness to a group of people who have been unfairly maligned and marginalised.

I have been involved in football all my life and I fervently believe that there has never been a better time for a gay footballer to live his life openly.

As much as any homosexual young man would have been devastated by reading Akermanis’s column during the week, so too I hope he would have been uplifted when the overwhelming majority of the football world came out in support of homosexual players.

Gay footballers makes as much sense as indigenous footballers, Muslims, kids from broken marriages, wonderful families, poor suburbs, the country or Western District farmers – that is, they are just another piece of the rich tapestry of life of which the football world is a microcosm.

Aker’s view has credibility.

His words do reflect the thoughts of many people, whether through lack of knowledge, fear, bigotry or just their take on the world.

What it has given us all is the opportunity to take a step forward in the discussion and understanding of the right of all Australians to live their life.

Invariably, the first football identity to come out will be part of a circus of headlines and opinion pieces, which is why that person should heed Akermanis’s comments if only to fully prepare for the inevitability of the coverage.

But just as everyone remembers Neil Armstrong as the first man to walk on the moon, who remembers Eugene Cernan, the 12th and most recent man to do so? So too will it become commonplace and not so much of a big deal once everyone moves past the initial fuss of the first gay footballer.

Wouldn’t it be great if a group of players were so bold as to come out together?

People should not condemn Akermanis for voicing his point of view; he might well end up playing a pivotal role in the next phase of evolution in our game.

Hopefully, the gay community can help those whose ignorance overshadows their natural sense of justice and help them understand we are all in this together.

Just as Nicky Winmar and Michael Long led the charge against racial vilification, so too do we need heroes to lead the way in fighting homophobia.

I can guarantee the majority of the football world will stand as one with them.

Footy Show implied gay people are faulty, tribunal told

Updated Wed May 19, 2010 12:14pm AEST

A gay activist has told a Sydney tribunal hearing that a skit on Channel Nine‘s Footy Show vilified homosexuals by implying they are faulty.

Gary Burns is giving evidence at the Administrative Decisions Tribunal which is looking at the skit that aired on Channel Nine’s Footy Show in May last year.

At the time, Matthew Johns was the star of the show.

The skit was a mock documentary where the Johns brothers joked about having a third brother, Elton Johns, who was gay.

It featured a scene where their father took his gay son back to hospital saying, “I want to return this, it’s faulty.”

Gay activist Gary Burns says the skit incites violence against homosexuals.

He argues the joke revolves around a father rejecting his son because he is gay.

But Mr Burns says it is no laughing matter, referring to statistics that show gay teenagers are six times more likely to commit self-harm than their heterosexual counterparts

The hearing continues.

Tags: arts-and-entertainment, television, community-and-society, gays-and-lesbians, law-crime-and-justice, courts-and-trials, australia, nsw, sydney-2000

First posted Wed May 19, 2010 12:03pm AEST – ABC

Ian Roberts joins court action against Footy Show ‘gay skit’

Court action by Sydney gay activist Gary Burns against the NRL Footy Show has seen former footballer Ian Roberts sign as a co-complainant.

The 2009 skit featured a fictitious gay brother of troubled NRL siblings Andrew and Matthew Johns, called ‘Elton Johns’.

“I want to return this,” said Johns’ father Gary in the skit. “It’s faulty.”

Elton Johns, portrayed by Matthew Johns, said: “Dad only knew I was gay when he walked in on me and my boyfriend Ian (Roberts).”

The skit sparked controversy last year after Burns lodged a complaint with the the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board. Nine claimed the skit was taken out of context and has since apologised to Burns. Part of  Burns’ request for conciliation was to require The Footy Show “explaining the dangers and ramifications of homosexual vilification and the reasons why it is wrong.”

In June the show included a segment on gay rugby union team the Sydney Convict Rugby Club in which vice president Matt Vagulans criticised the skit’s poor humour. By July Paul “Fatty” Vautin was even actively promoting a campaign against homophobia.

Roberts will now testify against Nine in the upcoming Administrative Decisions Tribunal court case, telling gay &  lesbian newspaper SX, “I’ve signed on with Gary, that was always my intention, and I’m willing to do whatever I can to make sure Channel Nine and The Footy Show don’t get away with this.

The Footy Show belittled and degraded gay kids and effeminate kids in that disgusting skit, and they dragged my name into it, and I’m not going to let that pass.”

The former sports star turned actor who has had roles in Nine’s Underbelly and Sea Patrol said, “How f***ing dare they drag me into something that degrades and belittles gay people.”

Gary Burns (coincidentally the same name of the Footy Show executive producer) has said he wants the matter remedied in the public interest, and any damages would be donated to the Luncheon Club AIDS Support Group and Twenty10 youth group.

A spokesman for the Nine Network said it had already addressed the issue and still rejected the claim the skit vilified gay men.

Johns is no longer part of the Nine Network and tipped to sign with Seven shortly.

Source: SX, Daily Telegraph,

13 Comments to “Ian Roberts joins court action against Footy Show ‘gay skit’”

  1. michael says:

    i am also gay and didnt find the skit offensive at all i think people like Ian Roberts and Gary Burns need to build a bridge and get over it Comedy is dead in this country and thats sad

  2. john says:

    Ian Roberts is a media seeker. I am a gay man & have never been offended by these p**s takes.Big deal,have a laugh & get a life.Don’t watch if you don’t like.

  3. henry says:

    The Footy Show really need to cut out this sort of “comedy”. I’m also a gay teen who has not come out to my family and I can say it is the subtle poking and prodding like this that really get me.

    It is almost too easy to assert that the gays are just a bunch of cry-babies or having yet another whine, without considering what it is like to grow up gay. This skit is probably on the lighter side of the homophobia spectrum, but it still contributes to a culture of ridicule and homophobia.

    Whenever i see jabs at homosexuals like this, I always ask myself “would have they allowed that if it was about race?”, since I’m non-white as well. In most cases the answer is no.

  4. Just had to comment on what rugbyfuture had to say. Rugby Union is the least inclusive sport in the world! This is a sport that very happily banned players because of their skin colour for crying out loud. As for this Footy Show skit, I switched it over about 30 second in because it was just ridiculous. You see a lot of really stupid things on TV all the time and if you reacted to all of it, well, it would be your full time job. The very best thing anyone can do who doesn’t like what they see? Switch the TV off and don’t give the show in question any help in gaining attention. Pretty simple really.

  5. jack says:

    I am absolutly apauled by the footy show. As a gay teen who is strugling to come out to my family I find this disgraceful that someone would mock what me and many others like me have been through. The worst part of it is this show which many sports fans and men will watch is promoting homaphobia and makes it look acceptable. The next time someone gay is beaten up or treated unfairly, I blame the footy show. TV rules people’s minds nower days and something which treats homosexuality with such contempt will only stir up hatrid and cause more young homosexuals to be treated in a very bad way. The show should be taken off the air perminantly in my opinion. All shows like this do is hold Australia back.

  6. Meg says:

    I always end up arguing with myself on censorship issues because mostly i think things end up being more offensive than they really are because they are simply not funny. However, my problem with comedy (if i can use that word) skits like this is that there is no actual attempt at making a joke. The inherent ‘joke’ is this family has two superstar footballers and geez it sucks that they’ve ended up with ‘a poof’ as well. There was no attempt at satire, we were just meant to laugh because it was funny that the almighty joey johns could have a gay brother. What about some kid coming up through grade who might be gay, or might be unsure of his sexuality? He’s just been told, by the main NRL show, that there’s something wrong with him. Ian Roberts strikes me as a strong guy (and i don’t mean physically) but not everyone has the personality to do what he did. I don’t know if it warrents a court case, but it was cheap and deserves to be focused on.

  7. Jason says:

    Im gay and you can only take so much “s**t” before you say enough is enough. Most homophobes are actually very lucky that they get away with what they say and do.

  8. FJ says:

    Struggling to leave the 20th century lol

    Last time I checked Rugby League was the only footy code in Aus that has had an openly gay man playing the game.

    These comments made by the Hawthorn AFL boss are far more disturbing

  9. Ryano says:

    Rugby League still struggling to leave the mid-20th century.
    What a sad excuse for a sport.

  10. FJ says:

    The thing is that this was probably written by 9 ‘comedy’ writers who often get bagged on The Footy Show after they’ve done one of their skits.
    It’s not like Sam Newman’s defamatory comments that were made against women.

  11. Someone BBBA says:

    It’s bad enough having Christians whinging about everything they don’t like on TV – the last thing we need is for the gay rights lobby to lower themselves to the same level. Unfortunately for this Mr burns fellow, nobody has a “right” not to be offended. My advise for him is exactly the same as my advise for the Christian groups – if you don’t like something you see on the TV, turn it off! Censorship is censorship, whether it’s coming from delusional religious zealots or misguided gay rights activists, whose cause I actually agree with. The likes of Gary Burns should spend their time fighting real instances where gay people hav their rights violated, not making up new “rights” out of thin air, in an attempt to force their views onto everyone else.

  12. Mr. Do-Bee says:

    Given that Matthew Johns plans to resurrect many of his old characters for his new show, I wonder if Seven is nervous. I didn’t think we’d be seeing his obnoxious, beer swilling, sexist ocker characters from the Footy Show ever again following *that* scandal.

  13. rugbyfuture says:

    the sydney convicts are a rugby union as was pinted out on that post, Rugby League is still a game stuck in blokesworld with no consideration for the exterior society, hence so much scandal. The Rugby Union society is inclusive of all genders, sexual prferences and body shapes. IGRAB (international gay rugby association and board) mostly push for inclusive Rugby Union games, not much to do with rugby league really.

I did not abuse Lucy: Burns

I did not abuse Lucy

A gay rights campaigner has defended himself from claims that he verbally abused and physically intimidated Wentworth MP Malcolm Turnbull‘s wife Lucy over the weekend.

Gary Burns, famous for suing John Laws when he used the term “pillow-biter” on air, encountered Mrs Turnbull on Saturday.

Mr Burns launched a tirade of abuse at Mrs Turnbull, leaving her shaken, The Daily Telegraph reported today.

In response Mr Turnbull complained to the Labor Party, stating Mr Burns was a Labor volunteer and therefore the party’s responsibility, the newspaper said.

Today Mr Burns said he had done nothing more than make his point “passionately”, and said he had not been acting as a Labor Party volunteer.

“I did not have a Kevin 07 shirt on, I was not representing the Labor Party,” Mr Burns said. He did confirm he has acted as an ALP volunteer once in recent times, when he escorted Bob Hawke on tour of the federal seat in Sydney’s eastern suburbs last week.

What Mr Burns said he did was challenge Mrs Turnbull about her husband’s recent lack of support for a Democrat-initiated bill that proposed ending discrimination against homosexuals in 58 areas of law.

Both major parties supported only one of the 58 recommendations, involving superannuation benefits for deceased partners.

Mr Burns said he was on his way to a shop to buy the newspaper on Saturday when he spotted Mrs Turnbull.

“I said to Lucy: ‘Is Malcolm 57?’ ” he said this morning.

“She looked at me and said: ‘What do you mean?’

“I said there’s 58 … recommendations and he’s only supported one.”

He then “expressed his view with passion” he said, before walking off. The conversation lasted about 30 seconds and at no point was he physically aggressive or verbally abusive, he said.

“It was just a bit of argy bargy … I’ve done nothing wrong. Why should I apologise?

“There was no swearing, there was no touching her, it was just a passionate plea for equality for gay men and lesbians … you don’t just win a seat in Parliament and stay there like a crab sitting in the sun.”

He said people sometimes reacted poorly to him because of his passion.

“I think what people find with Gary Burns is passion, you need passion to change things … I’m a dogged individual; it’s about standing up to bullies and bringing about a common society for everybody.”

He said Mrs Turnbull was just upset because he had been accusing her and her husband of failing to act on gay issues.

“I’ve been campaigning in the gay media about the inaction of Turnbull on these local issues.

“What he does is send his wife [who] sips sauvignon blanc and waves her pinky finger out to the gay community.”

A spokesman for the Turnbulls later called Mr Burns’s behaviour “abusive, offensive and intimidatory”.

“There are many witnesses who can attest to that, as Mr Burns knows full well.”

Dylan Welch
November 12, 2007 - 3:27PM