On Thursday night The NRL Footy Show got very touchy feely, giving support to a match between Penrith and Manly to aid the National Breast Councer Foundation. Players appeared decked out in pink uniform as part of the “Real Mean Wear Pink in the NRL” week.
On the same episode Paul “Fatty” Vautin interviewed two team members from the Sydney Convicts Rugby Club, a local gay community team which has twice won the Bingham Cup, an international tournament amongst gay football teams, who have also appeared in the SBS documentary, Walk Like a Man.
Recently, the NRL Footy Show has come under criticism for a comedy sketch on May 7th in which Matthew Johns played a character named “Elton Johns”. In the sketch, “Elton” is taken to hospital for being gay, with brother Andrew saying “I’m so ashamed of him”. The clip has been withdrawn from YouTube.
The NSW Anti-Discrimination Board (ADB) has since accepted a complaint lodged by gay activist Gary Burns against the show. Nine says the skit was taken out of context and has since apologised to Burns. The ADB is now seeking a copy of the offending broadcast, and the matter is expected to go to court unless successfully conciliated beforehand. Part of the conciliation is said to require a segment on The Footy Show “explaining the dangers and ramifications of homosexual vilification and the reasons why it is wrong.”
The Sydney Convicts appeared on Thursday agreeing that the sketch was in poor taste.
“To explain why we exist I think you’d look no further than maybe some of the skits that you guys show on this show from time to time,” said vice president Matt Vagulans.
“A couple of weeks ago you had one with the Johns brothers, and the fictitious younger gay guy who because he was gay was seen to be hopeless at sport, and even worse than that was ostracised by his family and seen as faulty by his father.”
Vautin questioned Vagulans about whether he took offence at some of the show’s humour.
“The one a couple of weeks ago, especially as it was targetting a young, gay kid growing up was particularly offensive to the community and even our people in the wider community because it reinforced the kind of idea you could be rejected by your father or by your coach or by your peers…”
“But in general you’re fine with the show?” asked Vautin.
You can check the clip for the rest of the conversation.
Rather curiously, The Footy Show only featured the Sydney Convicts after it was facing a potential case with the Anti-Discrimination Board. The Sydney Convicts won their first cup in 2006, yet it’s taken three years to attract the attention of The Footy Show.
Paul Vautin, who also hosted a segment with openly-gay Today show commentator Richard Reid learning to kick, was sure to thank the Sydney Convicts for “lending us your support.”