Jason Akermanis, an outspoken Australian Rules Football star, has told gay players to stay in the closet because the sport is “not ready for it”.
In an article published in Australia’s Herald Sun, the sportsman discusses rumours that two former players have been offered $150,000 to be the first to come out as gay.
He argues that an openly gay footballer would not be a good thing. “Imagine the publicity associated with a current player admitting he’s gay. It would be international news and could break the fabric of a club.”
Akermanis (33), who plays for the Western Bulldogs, also admits that he would feel uncomfortable being naked in a locker room with a gay colleague and when once faced with this scenario felt the need to leave the room.
“Football clubs are very different environments. Locker room nudity is an everyday part of our lives and unlike any other work place. I believe it would cause discomfort in that environment should someone declare himself gay,” he writes.
Akermanis insists that he is not homophonic and supports LGBT equality “away from football” and says that “in time I hope the environment changes to a degree where coming out isn’t a big deal”.
He adds: “I know there are many who think a public AFL (Australian Football League) outing would break down homophobia, but they don’t live in football clubs. It’s not the job of the minority to make the environment safer. Not now, anyway.”
The athlete concludes by wishing young gay players coming through the ranks well and hopes that they enjoy their sporting lives without having to experience any form of prejudice, but “if they are thinking of telling the world, my advice would be forget it”.