What was Brian Taylor thinking last Saturday night? He’s no fool, a sharp talker and a better than most caller of a footy game.
He’s got a bit of cheek, wit and theatre. But what got into his head when he called Geelong’s Harry Taylor “a big poofter?”
BT was just being one of the boys, mouthing off for Seven’s footy faithful. He was reacting to Harry Taylor being chaired off the ground by his teammates in celebration of his 150th game. BT’s no stander on ceremony. Such celebrations are ‘crap’ and made Harry look like “a big poofter.”
This is more than a bit rich. It’s offensive.
Seven’s panel laughed at BT’s comment. Comic Mick Molloy has prior form on homophobia. In 2010, he and sidekick Eddie McGuire were accused of making homophobic comments against American skater Johnny Weir during Nine’s coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Who could ever forget Molloy’s apology.
“I suggested that there was a disaster happening at the ice skating rink because organisers had found out one of the male ice dancers wasn’t gay”, Molloy declared, “and I apologise for that really sincerely.”
Geelong great and coaching aspirant, Cameron Ling, also laughed as did Luke Darcy. He was on Triple M when McGuire made his ‘King Kong’ comment. On that occasion Darcy realised McGuire had crossed the line. On this occasion, however, he laughed along with the boys.
A savvier bunch would have immediately issued an apology, but BT waited until half-time. By this time Seven’s management and the AFL had stepped in requesting BT say sorry. What a farce it turned out to be. Taylor looked silly and the apology seemed half-hearted.
BT was benched by 3AW for Sunday’s Pies-Bombers clash. As he explained, the station’s management had given him “a day off to collect [his] thoughts.” He was also off to modern managerialism’s other preferred course of punishment, counselling, whatever that entails.
The hope is that BT will emerge a more enlightened person, give up his blokesworld ways and begin to embrace social and cultural diversity.
You can’t help feeling sorry for him. Twitterers called him a throwback to the eighties when racism and poofter-bashing were part of footy culture. Before Michael Long and Nicky Winmar made their stands, anything went on the field.
Though the AFL has done a great deal to stamp out racism, BT’s so-called ‘gaffe’ suggests poofter-baiting is still part of the game. Serial sledger, St Kilda’s Stephen Milne, called Magpie Hertier Lumumba a ‘f****** homo c***’ in 2012. Milne was reported by an umpire, but Lumumba would have preferred to let the matter lapse, because such remarks were “so normal in our society.”
They were echoed on the Footy Show when Sam Newman labelled NFL draftee Michael Sam’s kissing of his boyfriend “annoyingly gratuitous.” It was heard in the claims of former Lions and Bulldogs player Jason Akermanis who questioned football clubs’ readiness to accept gay players. For his comments, Akermanis was pilloried in the press and sacked by the Bulldogs.
Similarly, Hawthorn great Jason Dunstall and the Herald Sun’s Damien Barrett have cautioned that an openly gay player would suffer crowd taunts.
Judging from BT’s remarks, they’d also suffer the odd ‘poofter’ jibe from the commentary box. He’s got form in this area. In June he made an on-air remark about a colleague’s “gay” dress sense.
Unfortunately BT’s most recent ‘gaffe’ coincided with Ian Thorpe’s dignified coming-out interview with Michael Parkinson. Thorpe told of the constraints his swimming career had placed on his life. He was called “a poof” and “faggot” in the street, and lived his life in a strait-jacket.
“I was trying to be what I thought was the right athlete by other people’s standards”, he explained.
He asked did Australians want their “champions to be gay” and had concerns about his marketability which kept him living the “lie.”
The cost for athletes who do come out has been high. Not only have they seen their earning potential decline, but some have faced ostracism from colleagues and families.
Take Justin Fashanu. He was Britain’s first million pound black football player, and one of only two to admit publicly they were gay while still playing.
His manager at Nottingham Forest, Brian Clough, chided Fashanu for going to “poofs clubs.” When Fashanu finally came out in 1990, he was abused from the terraces and ostracised by his equally famous footballing brother, John.
Rejected by his family and the broader football community, Justin committed suicide in 1998.
His story suggests why few gay footballers come out. The costs are too high.
So too does BT’s so-called ‘gaffe’.
To label someone a ‘poofter’ is to suggest that person doesn’t belong. Their values not only differ from the so-called norm, but also are lesser. It’s not a word that promotes social inclusion or diversity, and goes against the trends in contemporary Australian sport.
In April, Australia’s major sporting codes committed to ban homophobic behaviour. Some AFL players and clubs have gone further. Carlton’s Brock McLean and Richmond’s Daniel Jackson have marched in support of gay rights, while last week the Geelong Football Club endorsed marriage equality between the sexes.
Despite these moves for a more inclusive football and sporting culture, blokesworld opinions are still heard. This is not forty years ago when poofter was part of the lexicon and gays faced criminal charges for not being straight.
We have moved on. States have removed anti-gay legislation. At the risk of bloke-bashing, it’s now time to get homophobic remarks off the field and out of the commentary box.
Dr Tom Heenan lectures in sport studies at Monash University