Before the Big Bash League Pride game this week, the same questions are being heard. Why do we still need to keep doing this? Isn't inclusion part of life now? Jodie Hawkins, general manager of Sydney Sixers, who plays the Hobart Hurricanes on Thursday night, is happy to look that way, but quickly points out that there are still many hurdles to overcome.
"That's what we want to get," she says. "But we know very well that we're not there yet. Part of our role is to educate our fans about the issues facing the community. We want to be part of continuing to drive this change."
After Australian cricketers Marcus Stoinis and James Pattinson are cited for using homophobic insults on the pitch this summer, the timing is particularly pertinent. Hawkins sees the departure of the Pride Party at SCG and the conversations that emerge as an opportunity for cultural change.
"What this [the pride game] allows us to do is educate our players," she said. "We are building a culture in which they can see that while they may have no evil behind them [homophobic language], what they do not understand is the impact it has on the community that finds it truly offensive."
While Stoinis was fined $ 7,500 and apologized to Kane Richardson, to whom the comments were directed, he escaped suspension and was widely celebrated for his record 147 BBL entries that did not come out last weekend. Richardson pointed out that the apology was not directed to where it needed to be.
"To be honest, I didn't have to apologize – he didn't offend me," he said. "It's more what he said that offends so many people."
Dr. Ryan Storr, one of the co-founders of Proud 2 Play, an organization that works to increase participation and involvement with sport in LGBT + communities, has been working with the Sixers in their planning for the pride match. While he finds the continued use of homophobic language in sport disappointing, he is encouraged by the fact that cricket is beginning to call this behavior.
"Once upon a time, referees probably said nothing about vilification," he says. Considering that it is now becoming a bit more common for them to actually talk about it. Incidents like this suggest that there is still a lot of work to be done, there is a homophobic culture in cricket. But I feel that the sport in general is making progress and doing a lot more work than other sports in this area. ”
Dr. Storr believes Sixers recognized the potential of reaching an untapped market and worked hard to create the environment for them to engage with the team.
"You need to reflect the community you are in," he says. “Are they really going to participate in your matches? Or do you need to do some work to try to get them to come? Because most of the time LGBT + people don't feel that the sport is warm or safe.
“You need to do some outreach work to try to make more people comfortable. And that's why the homophobic sled that happened is really sad, because if anyone would come … and they see it, they wouldn't come again. I can't describe the impact this has. It is not just a disposable comment. "
Hawkins agrees, emphasizing the importance of creating a continuous culture of inclusion. "We want to make sure that when they [LGBT + people] come to a match, not just our proud match – all our matches – they feel included and safe," she says.
"And that's the biggest problem we have: people don't necessarily feel safe at large-scale sports. We want them to participate in a Sixers match and know that they are safe and welcome."
Prior to launching the Pride Party game, Hawkins spoke to players about their understanding of the inclusion of LGBT +, wanting to ensure that the team would provide the support and celebration the community needs.
"They were very good," she says. “They live and breathe inclusion as much as we do. It is very important to ensure that we can create the change we want to create because our players are our voice. If they are not behind it, it makes it hard enough. But they have been excellent at accepting the messages and ensuring that inclusion is also at the top of their values. "
Dr. Storr believes it is this commitment to his values that will ensure that Sixers are able to create lasting cultural change.
"They have this little team and they have achieved a lot," he says. "And finally, it's because there's the dedication to doing this work, because they see it as the right thing to do. And it's important for the longevity of cricket."