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Official says 5% of Aussie Rules Football players are gay

AFL's Daniel Jackson was part of a campaign against homophobia

Jeff Kennett, former Australian political official and also past president of an Australian Rules Football club, says 5% of AFL players are gay but afraid to come out.

"Not only am I not surprised at the number of players in the AFL who are suffering from stress, anxiety and depression - many of whom haven't sought help for fear of being ridiculed or not selected - I'm also quite sure within the AFL there are a number of young men who are gay, who keep that fact to themselves, worried about how they're going to be treated by their colleagues,'' Mr Kennett told Adelaide radio station 5AA.

Mr Kennett said out of a playing group of 800, he would be "very surprised'' if 40 or less weren't gay.

Of course, the 5% figure could be applied to any sport, given that the percentage of gays in society is estimated between 3% and 10%. Kennett also runs an Australian initiative that deals with depression. He says that he now believes the climate in the AFL is good for a player to come out.

"If he were to do so, I'm quite sure the players would embrace him, I'm quite sure the sort of comments that you could imagine being said in locker rooms, would not be said if, in fact, the playing group knew that one of their own was gay or was suffering a depressive illness,'' Kennett said.

On a related note, AFL player Robert Murphy decried what he calls a "sick fascination" with trying to figure out which players are gay.

"It's about an environment of accepting not just people who are gay, but from all walks of life and different outlooks on things. The culture of footy now is one that's very accepting. This club's one of great acceptance."

Asked why he regarded such curiosity as sick, Murphy said: "There's an undertone of something that I don't really like too much."

The word "sick" strikes me as odd. There is a fascination simply because we know there are gay pro athletes, yet they remain hidden, and speculation is human nature.

These comments about gays in the AFL came in response to media attention Down Under to news that prominent rugby referee Matt Cecchin is gay.

Hat tip to longtime reader Noel for the items.