Straight out of Left field

Herald Sun - - OPINION - RITA PANAHI

SPORT and pol­i­tics are un­com­fort­able bed­fel­lows at the best of times but when it comes to con­tentious is­sues of con­science, they are ir­rec­on­cil­ably in­com­pat­i­ble.

That won’t stop elite sport­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions from alien­at­ing a size­able por­tion of their em­ploy­ees, stake­hold­ers and fans by tak­ing a side on di­vi­sive is­sues.

The AFL’s pen­chant for ser­mon­is­ing is set to reach new heights of sanc­ti­mony now that the dreaded postal plebiscite is upon us. If af­ter years of sat­u­ra­tion me­dia cov­er­age and public de­bate you are still un­de­cided about same­sex mar­riage, then Gill McLach­lan (be­low) and his “pro­gres­sive” un­der­lings are here to help.

You would think the AFL would be a lit­tle gun shy about lec­tur­ing the masses on mat­ters of moral­ity just two months af­ter three of its se­nior man­agers were forced to re­sign for mis­con­duct or on-field vi­o­lence.

If league bosses can’t stop their highly re­mu­ner­ated ex­ec­u­tives from plough­ing the ju­nior ranks of fe­male em­ploy­ees or punch­ing an un­sus­pect­ing bloke in the head dur­ing a foot­ball match then what author­ity do they have to moralise to vot­ers about the Mar­riage Act?

Per­son­ally, I sup­port same-sex mar­riage but do not need sport­ing bod­ies, coun­cils, banks, air­lines or phone com­pa­nies to lecture me about an is­sue that has noth­ing to do with their op­er­a­tions.

What con­sid­er­a­tion have these or­gan­i­sa­tions given to the views of em­ploy­ees and clien­tele who do not sup­port it? It’s one thing for in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing celebri­ties and sport­ing stars, to take a stand on so­cial and po­lit­i­cal is­sues but quite an­other for an or­gan­i­sa­tion that is sup­posed to en­com­pass the di­verse views of its staff and the wider com­mu­nity.

The ARU’s mis­man­age­ment of the game is well doc­u­mented but that hasn’t stopped their board from weigh­ing in on the gay mar­riage de­bate and back­ing the Yes vote along with the AFL, FFA, NRL and Cricket Aus­tralia.

A day af­ter the ARU backed same-sex mar­riage, one of the Wal­la­bies’ biggest stars, Is­rael Fo­lau, aired his op­po­si­tion to chang­ing the Mar­riage Act. The de­vout Chris­tian, who has played rugby union, rugby league and Aussie rules at the high­est level, tweeted: “I love and re­spect all peo­ple for who they are and their opin­ions. but per­son­ally, I will not sup­port gay mar­riage.”

Pre­dictably, this mild state­ment was met with a flurry of abuse from the tol­er­ance bri­gade who called him a d---, douche, dis­grace and much worse. Sev­eral me­dia pun­dits also re­sponded harshly, ques­tion­ing Fo­lau’s de­cency and in­tegrity, and ask­ing why he felt en­ti­tled to share his opin­ion. It has been re­ported that ARU of­fi­cials have spo­ken to Fo­lau about his op­po­si­tion to same-sex mar­riage.

The re­sponse to Fo­lau is pre­cisely the type of bul­ly­ing that makes some ques­tion the mer­its of vot­ing yes. There would be others within the ARU and the AFL who think sim­i­larly but have been in­tim­i­dated into si­lence.

Lat­est polling shows be­tween 58 and 70 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion are in favour of same-sex mar­riage but that leaves a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber who are not.

The sim­plis­tic no­tion that only a bigot, hater or ho­mo­phobe would vote no is plainly ab­surd. Were Bill Shorten, Ju­lia Gil­lard and Penny Wong ho­mo­phobes un­til four years ago when they changed their po­si­tions?

Gay mar­riage would likely be law to­day if the gov­ern­ment was al­lowed to hold a proper plebiscite in Fe­bru­ary as they promised at the elec­tion. But the LGBTQIA lobby al­lowed their cause to be hi­jacked for po­lit­i­cal gain and La­bor and the Greens blocked the vote.

In­ter­est­ingly, not a sin­gle sport­ing body backed the plebiscite that would’ve de­liv­ered gay mar­riage back then.

Only af­ter it was de­feated did the AFLPA launch a public cam­paign, fea­tur­ing some of the game’s biggest names, call­ing for mar­riage equality. If mak­ing gay mar­riage le­gal was the main ob­jec­tive, then why did the cam­paign come months af­ter the plebiscite was de­bated and ul­ti­mately de­feated in the Se­nate?

Or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the AFL, CA and the FFA rarely make a stand that isn’t per­fectly aligned to Left­ist dogma.

It’s one thing to leave some skin in the game and risk dis­af­fect­ing seg­ments of the fan base on mat­ters of prin­ci­ple but sport­ing codes rarely, if ever, do that.

CA doesn’t take a stand against Pak­istan de­spite that coun­try’s in­tol­er­ance of re­li­gious mi­nori­ties, in­clud­ing the per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians.

FFA doesn’t boy­cott the Arab states for their shame­ful treat­ment of women or mi­grant work­ers. No, our na­tional team will be in Qatar play­ing in sta­di­ums built by modern-day slaves and we will con­tinue to host their teams.

If sport­ing bod­ies re­ally are con­cerned with pro­mot­ing hu­man rights and equality, then they shouldn’t be so se­lec­tive about the causes they em­brace or al­low party pol­i­tics to dic­tate the agenda. For fans, sport of­ten rep­re­sents an es­cape from the pres­sures of daily life; the last thing they want is so­ciopo­lit­i­cal is­sues in­trud­ing on their love of the game. RITA PANAHI IS A HER­ALD SUN COLUM­NIST rita.panahi@news.com.au @ri­ta­panahi

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