The AFL has never had an openly gay player, but Eddie McGuire is adamant the league has many gay stars.
Daily Mail Australia asked the former Collingwood president about one of footy’s hot topics as he attended the premiere of Dani Laidley’s new documentary Stan on Monday night – and he also got a surprising insight into why which no footballer has ever come out publicly while they were still playing.
Asked if he hoped the documentary – which covers Laidley’s struggle with his gender identity – would help players break that barrier, McGuire replied: “I don’t think anyone in football would cares.
“I don’t think anyone thinks there aren’t gay footballers or that there never were.
“We have gay players everywhere at clubs these days, especially in the women’s league.
McGuire (pictured with Dani Laidley at the launch of his new documentary) says the AFL has many gay stars – and “no one in football” makes much of their sexuality.
The former Collingwood president (pictured with a Magpies player after a 2018 final victory) told Daily Mail Australia: “We have gay players everywhere at clubs these days.”
“No one is interested.”
The absence of an openly gay AFL star was addressed by ABC’s Four Corners in August, with Western Bulldogs great Bob Murphy lashing out at former player Jason Akermanis, who wrote a column in 2010 urging football players to “stay in the closet.” for fear that they would not be accepted by the league.
Murphy said he was “disgusted,” “embarrassed” and “hurt” by Akermanis’ controversial comments.
At the time, Akermanis doubled down on comments made in the column, telling Channel Nine he believed gay players would be targeted if they came out.
The show’s claim that the AFL was anti-gay angered Laidley.
“I was furious during the Four Corners episode where they called the AFL homophobic. This is absolutely not the case,” she told the Sun Herald.
‘Eddie Everywhere’ (pictured with Collingwood players after a 2018 match) doesn’t think the AFL is homophobic – and believes real change in how gay players are treated will be driven by forces outside the league.
McGuire also believes the league’s attitude toward gay and lesbian players — which he describes as “very welcoming” — is not the reason the league is devoid of openly gay players.
“It doesn’t have to be so much about the AFL, it’s the junior leagues we need to get there,” he said of what needs to happen to pave the way for the AFL’s first star AFL and proud.
“I think like schools, private schools in particular, that were hyper-masculine in the past, they now have gay-straight alliances in some of the larger religious private schools, and that’s where the changes are happening.
“I think the knock-on effect of same-sex marriage (becoming legal in Australia) means we’ll have a lot more same-sex couples turning up at Auskick and playing junior football and it will just become something that’s not considered a big problem.” story more.
At the time of his controversial column, Akermanis doubled down on his comments, telling Channel Nine he believed gay players would be targeted if they revealed everything about their sexuality.
Brisbane Lions great Jason Akermanis (pictured) was sacked by the Western Bulldogs in 2010 after urging gay players to stay in the closet. The ABC revisited the episode in a recent episode of Four Corners which left Laidley ‘livid’
“There’s been a little gay hunt where we’re trying to get people to come out,” he said.
“I’m not sure it’s very safe and healthy for competition. What you do in your private life is your business.
He was sacked by the Western Bulldogs two months after the column was published.
Laidley has received a very different reception from soccer stars past and present since revealing her struggle with her gender identity during her transition.
“I can’t express how grateful I am that they accepted me,” she said.
‘During my journey, I may have always thought that one day football would kill me, but it has invariably saved my life. No question.’