So. Who’s homophobic? Hands up. Come on.
Ignoring the virtual dearth of hands that just sprung up, there must be heaps of you. Judging by the clamour of
people wanting to pour sh*t all over David Pocock for calling out comments that he found offensive during the Waratahs vs Brumbies game on the weekend.
I am not sure what I found more surprising – the fact that the comments were used, the alleged ‘that’s rugby’ attitude of some of the other players, or the fact that there were so many people happy to say, nay, insist that what happens on the field should stay on the field.
If that is the case – should punching, kicking, high tackles and other dangerous play ONLY be punished on the field during the game? The presence of a Citing Commissioner and suspensions would suggest not. So why should homophobic, racist and any other antisocial behaviour be treated any differently?
I would like to think that in today’s society homophobic behaviour is unusual, not the ‘norm’. Most of us believe, or at least accept, that discrimination of any form in general society is not on. This includes bullying, name calling and any other ‘offensive’ behaviour. So, why should there be any different expectation for behaviour on the rugby field?
Let me introduce you to Australian Rugby’s Inclusion Policy . It is an 11 page document published on 29th August 2014 which is “designed to stamp out all forms of discrimination and homophobia in Rugby and ensure a positive environment for everyone involved in the game.”
In relation to this particular incident I would like to draw your attention to paragraphs 1.4, 1.5 & 1.6.
1.4 ARU recognises that both intentional and unintentional homophobic behaviour exists within society in Australia, and that this can have adverse and potentially significant consequences for some individuals and our game.
1.5 Sometimes these consequences mean that individuals who want to play Rugby or be involved in our game, feel excluded and as a result cease their involvement or even hide their sexuality. In some cases, individuals who continue playing may be subjected to homophobic language or actions and are needlessly and wrongfully subjected to discrimination, thus reducing their enjoyment of Rugby. These outcomes are unacceptable and unwelcome in our game.
1.6 ARU’s policy on inclusion is simple: Rugby has and must continue to be a sport where players, officials, volunteers, supporters and administrators have the right and freedom to participate regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion and without fear of exclusion. There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words both on and off the field must reflect this.
The policy is structured around six pillars. These are:
- Dissemination and Training – making sure that all people covered by the policy know about the policy and that training relating to diversity is included in programs;
- Sanctions and Reporting – making sure that homophobic incidents are recorded and reported, and reading into the title, sanctioned;
- Implementation by Member Unions – making sure that the ‘sub-unions’, right down to the local level, implement the policy and are supportive of the policy;
- Review and Responsibility – oversight and management of the policy;
- Leadership – making sure that the policy is known to all involved in rugby, seen as a positive and ‘endures’ with in rugby;
- Partnership – to establish “strong and enduring relationships with the gay, lesbian and bisexual community organisations” to promote their involvement in rugby.
As good as the presence and contents of the policy are, a policy is only as strong as the actions of the people who are required to follow and enforce said policy. And for this reason I personally think that the incident was handled by properly by all involved.
Poey had the guts to stand up and report it. The powers that be, SANZAR and the ARU, had the guts to follow it through. And Jacques Potgieter had the guts to admit that what he said was wrong and take his medicine. The tiger, it appears, is not toothless.
Putting aside the fact that what offends one person may not necessarily offend the next, I am sure that we can all agree that there are a number of words that can be generally considered “offensive”. I am also sure that I do not need to list them and that the word allegedly used on Saturday would be on the majority of people’s lists.
If you are going to have a go at someone for standing up against something that the majority of society finds offensive, and quite rightly so, then I have little or no respect for your opinions. Just because something happens does not make it right, and if it is ‘rugby’ then it shouldn’t be.
For all those involved in rugby at any level who have not seen this policy before, might I suggest you need read it. I would expect (hope) that education regarding the contents of the policy will be included in many of the training programs that are conducted each year – including SmartRugby.
I would like to know how many people were aware that the policy existed, and how they found out about it. I know that the silence from my particular ‘member union’ has been deafening.
From my vantage point, I stumbled across it last year after another altogether disturbing incident. And in relation to that incident I would like to point out another paragraph:
1.8 While this Policy has a focus on homophobia and makes specific reference to gay, lesbian and bisexual people, the overarching principles and intention of the policy is to make a positive statement on the importance of inclusion for all, and the importance of eliminating all forms of discrimination in our game.
Interesting that this policy is also meant to cover gender. But that is a discussion for another day……