Aussie Footballer Comes Out, Encourages Gay Acceptance For League

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com September 10 2012 12:52 PM ET

Australian football player Jason Ball not only announced that he is gay, but that his new goal is to get the Australian Football League to show an anti-homophobia ad during it's major championship game, the Grand Final.

Ball's campaign on Change.org has recruited more than 16,340 supporters in five days.

"This is a terrifying petition to write," Ball, 24, of the Yarra Glen team writes on Change.org. "But it’s important. I’d like to tell you what it’s like being a gay footy player, because today there’s a real chance we could begin to change the culture of homophobia in the AFL."

Ball said he thought that coming out to his teammates would be the worse thing that could happen to him, because it could have opened him up to bullying, targeted attacks from the other team, and hostility in the locker room. Eventually Ball came out to his teammates who welcomed him, and even told him they knew he was gay, and that it wasn't an issue for them.

"I think I'm pretty lucky to have such a supportive group of players around me - especially in a regional town," he wrote. "It could have gone the other way - and it's no wonder to me that there are no openly gay players in the AFL."

Ball's petition comes a week after Andrew Demetriou, the CEO of the AFL, publicly announced support for the No To Homophobia campaign. The petition calls for the AFL to play No To Homophobia ads on the big screens during the Grand Final games.

"The AFL has shown tremendous leadership on racism and are to be commended for their proactive leadership and commitment to the Multicultural and Indigenous Rounds," the petition reads. "It’s time to do the same for gay members of the footy community -- so that we can all be fully comfortable and feel safe as part of this game we all love."

The Grand Final, described by Outsports as the Australian version of the Super Bowl, will take place later this month.