AFL greats Trent Cotchin, Joel Selwood fear AFL environment still ‘not safe’ for gay players

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Two greats of the game have expressed their concerns over the fact no AFL player has felt comfortable enough to come out publicly as gay.

One even took it a step further and suggested the furore over Jeremy Finlayson’s ban for using a homophobic slur could now make it even less likely that reality will eventuate any time soon.

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In new ground for the AFL, Finlayson was handed a three-game suspension for using a homophobic term during Port Adelaide’s victory over Essendon last Friday night.

The key forward immediately told the club about the incident and took responsibility for it, which was taken into account when the tribunal was deciding his punishment.

It has sparked a firestorm of conjecture, with some including the AFL Players’ Association slamming a double standard after North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson was only fined for a similar incident earlier this season.

Speaking on the Seven Network’s Talking Footy on Wednesday night, former Richmond captain Trent Cotchin was asked if the punishment was about right for Finlayson.

“It’s a tough one because it’s kind of unprecedented,” he said.

“Three weeks feels about right, they obviously want to make a stand and there is no place for it in our game.

“That’s a challenge that we’ll continue to face, but (the AFL are) obviously wanting to stamp it out.”

Unlike most professional sporting organisations around the world, the AFL is still yet to have a single player publicly state they are gay.

Former Essendon champion Tim Watson pushed that point with Cotchin and Cats great Joel Selwood.

“The conversation went very quickly today, well this is going to mean that an AFL player, if he was gay, will not come out now because they’re worried about the environment they might find themselves in,” Watson stated.

“You’ve just stepped out of the dressing room, both of you, is that your feeling about this?”

Both players, who retired last season, took a similar point of view.

“I do have a concern that a player hasn’t had the confidence, or feels safe enough, to come out in today’s environment,” Cotchin said.

“I can only speak from a Richmond point of view, in our environment I would’ve thought that any player, if they were homosexual or gay, did feel comfortable enough to come out in the environment we provided.”

Selwood then added a further dimension when he suggested the Finlayson scenario could have made the situation even worse for any gay player in the AFL.

“I couldn’t speak with any more confidence in saying (coming out would be) OK within the footy club,” the four-time premiership winner said.

“But we’re probably further away now because maybe people see it differently.

“That individual that may be gay within the AFL landscape of the men’s program doesn’t feel comfortable in that (since the Finlayson issue).”