By Callum Twomey
Brock McLean says the AFL community is taking steps towards creating an environment where a gay footballer would be comfortable coming out.
While the AFL is yet to have a player publicly take that stride, the Carlton midfielder said the trend in world sport suggested it would happen eventually.
“I think we’re slowly starting to see more players on an international level come out, and it is only a matter of time,” McLean told Channel Seven at Saturday’s Midsumma Festival.
“But until that happens we need to create an environment where if someone is thinking about coming out with their sexuality, then they feel comfortable doing so and feel that they are going to be welcomed with open arms.”
Midsumma is Victoria’s annual arts and culture festival for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) community, and McLean is continuing to lead the way for footballers in pushing for the sport to be more welcoming for gay players, officials and fans.
McLean got a first-hand look at the courage it takes to come out, with his younger sister Ellie taking years before telling her family she was a lesbian.
Last year McLean was the first AFL player to take part in the annual gay and lesbian Pride March, and the 27-year-old said the response to getting involved had been positive.
“99 per cent of the feedback was great, and the minority said don’t let politics enter football. This isn’t politics, this is just a basic human right of everyone having a right to be treated equally and that’s something I firmly believe in,” McLean said.
McLean and openly gay Yarra Glen footballer Jason Ball – who has been working with the AFL to promote the sport as an inclusive one – held an AFL 9s skills session and game on Saturday at Midsumma, showcasing the shortened and fresh form of the game.
McLean is encouraged more players have started to support the cause.
“We are watched by millions of people and we are looked up to by millions of kids. I think that’s where we need to really focus our energy – the kids – and educating them because a lot of the time we talk about sticks and stones, but words actually do harm people,” he said.
“A lot of the time it is because people don’t realise their words have a massive effect on the gay community. AFL players should be putting their voices to it because ultimately it’s going to make society better.”