Andy Brennan, Australia’s first openly gay soccer player, has called for public figures to take more care in comments about LGBTIQ people. His comments come after the recent controversy over Israel Folau.
Brennan, who came out on social media last month, said that “people with a voice” have a responsibility to avoid hurting the community, Reuters reported.
Andy Brennan joins Ian Roberts as the only two top-level Australian sportsmen to come out as gay.
“You never want to harm anyone — that’s the biggest line that nobody wants to cross,” he said.
“People should be pretty careful what they say, especially people with a voice… It is important that they understand that they can really emotionally hurt people through what they say.
“If you treat everybody with a bit of respect, don’t go imposing your ideas or beliefs on anyone.
“Accept people for who they are and what they do believe; it is a free world and people can believe what they like.”
Recently, Rugby superstar Israel Folau lost his contract with Rugby Australia over a series of social media posts.
He posted a meme stating ‘hell awaits you’ in reference to gay people and others. Rugby Australia judged that as vilification in breach of his multi–million dollar contract.
After the loss of his contract Folau commenced legal action against Rugby Australia. He claims that his termination was “because of his religion”.
“A nation made up of so many different faiths and cultural backgrounds will never be truly rich unless this freedom applies to all of us,” he said.
“No Australian of any faith should be fired for practising their religion.”
The fullback received multiple warnings from Rugby Australia. Despite that, he continued to post anti-gay messages, leaving the organisation with “no choice” but to end his contract.
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle described the situation as “a painful situation for the game.”
“But Rugby Australia’s position remains that Israel Folau, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue this course of action.”
Barriers to coming out
Public attitudes about LGBTIQ people and a lack of role models contribute to the difficulty many have coming out.
Few elite athletes are openly LGBTIQ, particularly among men’s sports.
Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham spoke out last year about the harm he suffered as a closeted young athlete. He said the stress of concealing his true self affected his professional performance.
“It really has an incredible impact on performance, on self esteem, because you can’t really give yourself wholeheartedly to anything unless your heart’s actually in it,” he said.
“Concealing a massive aspect of yourself is something that I found quite detrimental to my own performance much earlier in my career.”
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