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Current Affairs - The opinions of a grumpy old pouf

Doug Pollard is a veteran gay journalist, columnist, commentator, and broadcaster specialising in GLBTI issues, based in Melbourne Australia. He often works with Rob Mitchell of the RJM Trust, "We are separate independent and unaffiliated guerilla campaigners and advocates, and the best of mates: nimble, fast-moving, unconventional and above all aiming to drive rapid change", he says.

Oh What A Feeling – Homophobia!

An Open Letter to Toyota

I am writing this to ask you to seriously reconsider your sponsorship of the AFL.

The organisation refuses to take any meaningful sustained action to tackle a prejudice that is rampant in the game at all levels,strongly resisting a push to tackle homophobia in its ranks.

Their attitude is ‘Not Our Problem Mate.’

Despite strong evidence of the damage anti-gay prejudice it is doing to a significant number of people at all levels of the game, Andrew Demetriou prefers to play Pontius Pilate and wash his hands of the issue, saying, in effect, the AFL can’t do everything. He refused to expand a comment he made last year, when he said ''next we'll be sorting out the pygmies in Tanzania''.

I’m more concerned about sorting out the moral pygmies in the AFL. And btw, there are no pygmies in Tanzania.

The issue came to the fore thanks to a petition by openly gay Yarra Glen footballer Jason Ball which has garnered almost 25,000 signatures.

Jason wrote: “It’s a blokey culture -- and gay slurs are a regular part of games and training. It’s a horrible reminder that you’re different, reviled and unwelcome. It felt like the footy club would be the one place I could never come out. Whether it’s intentional or not, the reality is that the culture of the AFL is hostile to fans and players like me.

“Young gay people are up to 6 times more likely to be depressed, to self harm, or to contemplate suicide. I was 12 when I realised I might be gay, and footy was my life. It was a really hard time for me and if I had known of positive gay role models in society, in football, it would have made a world of difference.”

The Age reported on the few within AFL who dared contact Jason to support him.

Five were too scared to come out; four had the support of their team but felt the wider football culture was not welcoming; one Auskick coach had to quit the sport after parents of children he coached found out he was gay; three came out. Two were supported by their teammates, one was treated badly.

The only sound from the AFL was the sound of people – important people who should be showing leadership - stampeding backwards at speed.

From AFL players – silence. Not a single AFL player spoke out in support of Jason. The AFL Players Association, normally very supportive of tackling homophobia in the game, declined to comment.

Contrast that with the numbers of NFL players in the US openly standing up for equal marriage and denouncing hate, as the New York Times reports.

It’s transformed the image of the game, from a haven for rednecks to a beacon for tolerance and diversity.

Jeff Kennett, who’s been talking to Demetriou about A Pride Round, similar to the Indigenous Round, said that as Australia's premier sporting organisation, the AFL had a responsibility to show leadership but it was unreasonable to expect it to champion every social cause.

Eddie McGuire, another broadly sympathetic figure in AFL terms, also tried to pass the buck, dumping anti-gay prejudice and bigotry in the ‘too hard’ basket.

“He asked why it should fall to football to lead the charge on such a tough issue. ''I don't know how much further football can go when we've got elected leaders and leaders of churches and other groups who are blatantly anti-homosexual … There should be an absolute question being asked to our elected officials as to why they choose to discriminate.”

“Tough issue,” Mr McGuire? Since when was treating your fellow women and men with – what’s that hollow AFL phrase, “respect and responsibility” a tough issue? Good manners are too hard for you? Really?

Meanwhile the culture of homophobia continues, with same-sex attracted people, especially young people, saying they find sports clubs, venues and events, especially AFL, among the pl;aces where they feel least safe.

Anti-gay language is rife in the stands, too, with little if anything done to curb it or police it. It’s left to individual spectators to say, as one brave man reported recently on Facebook, excuse me, but as a gay man, your continual screaming about ‘faggotts’ offends me. He was lucky he wasn’t bached. Others have been.

Yet the AFL prefers to say “Not our problem.”

Which is where Toyota comes in. You support footy at all levels. You are the AFLs major sponsor.

As you say on your website, “Toyota AFL Good for Footy”

Your dealers provide financial support for their local football clubs.

“ Funding goes to a variety of club requirements such as improving grounds, renovations of club rooms, training equipment, uniforms, medical supplies and improving the overall playing and training environment for the club.”

What you are also funding is a culture which plays a major role in the extremely high rates of suicide and self harm in the gay community.

A culture that no-one in football has the guts to tackle. The comments from Andrew Demetriou and Eddie McGuire can be summed up as, yeah, tragic, isn’t it, but not our problem. We’re only reflecting the way the world is. Tough.

Is that good enough for Toyota?

Or should you be changing your slogan to “Oh What A Feeling – Homophobia!”
............................. ............................. .....

If you would like to contact Toyota to tell them what YOU think of the AFL cowardice and irresponsibility, here’s some useful contacts.

Public Relations
Mike Breen
Manager - Public Relations
Toyota Australia
Cnr Gannons Rd and Capt Cook Drive
Ph: 02 97103341
Mo: 0418 447 064
Fx: 02 9710 3179

Corporate Affairs
Glenn Campbell
Manager, Public Affairs & Communication
Toyota Motor Corporation Australia
Tel: 61 3 9647 4557
Fax: 61 3 9647 4611
Mobile: 61 417 381 692

Beck Angel
Media and External Affairs Manager
Toyota Motor Corporation Australia
P : 61 3 9647 4250
M : 61 421 271 279
F : 61 3 9647 4611
Email :
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1 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]
1. September 17th 2012 @ 01:08. Doug Pollard Says:
Maybe Toyota Australia needs to learn from Toyota America: Dec 2011 "Toyota is honored to be recognized by the HRC," said Jerome Miller, vice president, diversity and inclusion, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. "Diversity and inclusion are essential components of every aspect of our business. We believe building a work force that reflects the communities it serves is not only the right thing to do, but also gives us a competitive advantage in the marketplace."
Businesses are rated on a scale from 0 to 100, based on their policies in support of LGBT people. These include anti-discrimination protections, domestic partner benefits, diversity training, transgender-inclusive benefits and external practices. Results from the CEI are published in the HRC's annual “Buying for Equality” guide, where consumers are encouraged to buy products and services from those companies that support the LGBT community.

“This validation of our deep commitment to diversity and inclusion means a great deal not only to us and our Associates, but also to our customers and the LGBT organizations we are privileged to support, including GLAAD, Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, Point Foundation, the Trevor Project and many more,” said Ann Bybee, vice president, corporate strategy, communications and corporate social responsibility, Toyota Financial Services. “Toyota looks forward to continuing to work with HRC in its efforts to support the LGBT community nationwide.”

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