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Research shows sportsmen still using homophobic slurs on the field

Research shows sportsmen still using homophobic slurs on the field
November 24, 2018

New research involving rugby and cricket players in South Australia and Victoria has found half of sportsmen use homophobic slurs on the field, despite those using the derogatory language claiming they don't hate gay people.

The study of 350 rugby and cricket players in South Australia and Victoria also found that three quarters of people had heard homophobic slurs in the past two weeks.

Lead researcher Erik Denison - also a sports inclusion researcher at Monash University - said he was shocked to find the players were not using terms like "fag" and "poof" because they were homophobic.

Denison told the ABC "I think, like a lot of people, I thought sport was filled with homophobes - but what we found was the opposite.

"This homophobic language is just thoughtless, it's used as banter … it's a way of bullying, it's a really effective tool of getting a competitive edge on someone.

"The fact that they have no malice towards gay people, that they're just using this language thoughtlessly, that gives us a lot of hope that change is possible."

With homophobic language common, evidence suggests it is still a major reason some young people quit a sport they once loved.

Denison explains “sport need to catch up to the rest of society and a key way to do that is stop this banter, stop this homophobic language, stop the sexist language because we want people to play sport.

"I was one of those gay kids who got abused and I played sport up until Year 10 and then I was outed by someone and the homophobic abuse started almost the next day.

"But no research has examined how do we change that language, how do we stop that language."

Denison quit his job in public health care to undertake this research to help "kids like him" enjoy sport rather than find it "painful".

In his latest research, which was unveiled in Adelaide on Thursday, he found people continued to use homophobic slurs because other players did, and no-one had called them out on it.

He found the regular use of homophobic slurs negatively impacted heterosexual players as much as homosexual and bisexual players.

Given no player involved in the research supported the use of such language, Onkaparinga Rugby Club player Caleb Whitton couldn't understand why he still heard homophobic slurs at every match he played.

As captain of his under-18s rugby union team, he said it was something he was actively working to stamp out.

Whitton added "I have seen people get upset by it before whether it is because they're homosexual or they don't want people to think they're homosexual, particularly in the younger teams.

"Most referees do look at (racial slurs) but it's not often you'd see a player be picked up for a penalty for saying some sort of homosexual slur.

"Rugby's such a fun sport, I love playing, so I couldn't think of someone coming particularly to this club and thinking they can't be accepted just because they're gay or anything else."

He said people would be called out and penalised for using racist slurs on the field, but he had never seen anyone disciplined for using homophobic language.

Whitton suggested that tougher penalties should be introduced for homophobic slurs too and he encouraged other captains and team managers to sit down with players at the start of each season to discuss the harm homophobic language causes - and discipline players if they use such slurs on or off the field.

Image used for illustrative purposes only.

Related Articles

31st August 2018 - Study shows education can change homophobic attitudes in sport

31st March 2016 - Rainbow Laces campaign aims to kick homophobia out of sport

28th June 2015 - Anti-Homophobia in sport campaign wins international awards

11th May 2015 - Major Australian sporting codes pledge to combat homophobia in sport

3rd November 2014 - You Can Play Forum to tackle homophobia and transphobia in sport

31st August 2014 - Bingham Cup organisers report on anti-homophobia framework

17th July 2014 - Study shows homophobia still widespread in Australian sport

10th April 2014 - Australia’s major sports advance anti-homophobia framework

28th May 2010 - Anti-homophobia campaign targets sport fans

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