Pride WA says Eagles need to work at connecting with LGBTIQA+ people

Pride WA have called on the West Coast Eagles to make a greater effort to forge real connection with Western Australia’s LGBTIQA+ communities as the club faces criticism for a half hearted involvement in the AFLW’s Pride round, and dismissive comments from the team’s coach.

“Pride WA applauds the decision of the AFL to host a Pride round in its AFLW season. But this past weekend saw decisions and commentary from the West Coast Eagles and its coach which left the LGBTQIA+ WA community and no doubt some of its players feeling unwelcome and unsupported.” the group said in a statement.

Gerry Matera, the Senior Vice President of Pride WA, said as someone whose family had a long association with the club, the events of the last week were disappointing.

“I have three brothers who played for the West Coast Eagles and growing up around the Club I never felt comfortable being myself, nor did I see any other LGBTQIA+ people. So, what a positive step for the game to feature a round to highlight its support for LGBTQIA+ persons – whether they may be players, officials, staff or fans – because they exist and there would not be a need to have a Pride round if the challenges of discrimination were no longer present.” Matera said.

“But how utterly devastating to learn that the WCE was the only team in the league which did not feature a Pride themed jersey on game day, its coach claiming that Pride had been “done to death” and that unique training singlets and rainbow singlets were worn during training, as if it was some consolation.”

Matera’s brothers Wally, Phillip and Peter all played for the Eagles, he encouraged the club to recognise that there was still a long way to go to make LGBTIQA+ people fell comfortable in the world of football.

“Visibility is a key tenet in organisations seeking to demonstrate their commitment and willingness to embrace the LGBTQIA+ community. Being the only club in the league without a Pride jersey on game day is an absolute lost opportunity for West Coast Eagles to show their support, particularly for any of its players who may be unable to be their authentic selves for fear of any backlash and marginalisation.

“It also makes LGBTQIA+ fans of the Club and the game question if they are genuinely welcome at matches. Sadly, much of the response to this issue on social media reveals the extent of the homophobia which still exists. We hope the Club and the AFL recognise that there is still much work to be done.

Matera said he hoped Pride WA could play a role in assisting the club on their journey.

“Of course, committing to wearing a Pride jersey is only one small step. A much larger strategy and policies must exist to achieve a Club-wide cultural shift.

On behalf of Pride WA, I invite the West Coast Eagles to engage with Pride WA and begin changing its direction with regards to the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Perth Hornets also reach out to West Coast Eagles

Local LGBTIQA+ football team The Perth Hornets said the West Coast Eagles needed to realise the Pride was far from being ‘done to death’ in the realm of sport.

“The road to Rainbow inclusion and acceptance in AFL is long and we are only just at the beginning.” the club said.  “This weekend saw the AFLW compete in the second annual Pride round. This has been a historical step forward for AFL in growing awareness, understanding and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

“As a Club that’s main focus is on LGBTQIA inclusion in AFL, we are excited to see where the AFL will go next with this.” the Hornets said.

In a social media post directed at Pride WA Club President Ian Odlum said it would disappointing if Pride WA failed to include The Hornets in their interactions with the West Coast Eagles.

“As the President of the LGBTQIA+ AFL Club in Perth, I would be extremely disappointed if Pride WA does not include the Perth Hornets in these interactions.

“The Perth Hornets are working extremely hard to change the face of AFL starting at a Grass Roots level and have so far not had any success gaining support from the local senior AFL clubs. However, we were extremely grateful and proud to be selected by the Sydney Swans last year to receive a grassroots grant from them.

“I appreciate the words you have written but would be extremely disappointed if any progress is made on this front without some kind of engagement with us. To date we have not heard from Pride WA regarding this.” Odlum publicly posted to Pride WA’s Facebook page.

OIP Staff

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