An Australian Football League player’s campaign to promote tolerance of gay footballers got some unexpected support after another player took to Twitter and criticized it.
Footballer Jason Ball launched a campaign on Change.org last week calling for the league to start a “pride round” of games to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community to show the AFL’s support. But notoriously outspoken player Jason Akermanis tweeted his disgust Sunday, sparking outrage among LGBT supporters.
A reporter for Melbourne’s Channel 9 tweeted out Ball’s story Sunday calling the story “brave,” but Akermanis responded from his personal Twitter account asking, “Who cares?” Akermanis received angry tweets from supporters of the pride round, calling out his homophobic behavior.
“Lots of people care, Jason. Not everyone is a hateful bigot like you,” tweeted Marcus T. Another Twitter user, Grace Angwin, tweeted “real men support equality.”
Some tweets used the hashtag #WeCareJason to respond to Akermanis. According to social measuring service Topsy, the hashtag garnered nearly 400 tweets.
After the onslaught of tweets toward Akermanis, the 35-year-old player told people to “get a life,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald. He has since deleted his Twitter account.
Ball told the Sydney-based newspaper that he was humbled by the support from Twitter users and that he was not concerned with Akermanis’ comments.
“Negative comments are less than enlightening, but that does not bother me,” said Ball. “If anything, negative comments just highlight that there is a problem.”
It’s a problem that has gained traction, if the Change.org petition in support of the campaign is any indication. The petition, which was “terrifying” for the openly gay player to write, has more than 16,000 signatures which Ball will send to the league’s chief executive officer.
In 2010, Akermanis came under fire for another homophobic message in a newspaper column he wrote. He told gay footballer players that the “world of AFL footy” was not ready for them and to stay in the closet.
Ball said that attitude is what he hopes to change with his Change.org petition.
“The AFL needs to show (gay) players that it’s got their back,” he told the newspaper. “We can change the culture so that in the future an AFL player can show that they are gay and it’s not an issue.”
Photo by Eva Rinaldi/Flickr