What to say to everyone who says sport shouldn't be about politics.

Are you struggling to swallow? Are you finding your throat closed over? Is it because of all the opinions being thrown down there?

If there is a combination of words we’ve heard a little too much in the last week they would be ‘sport’, ‘political’, something something ‘shoving down our throats’.

Apparently, there’s no such thing as an organisation publicly stating their position on an issue anymore. Because the minute they do so, they are apparently violently picking up that opinion, cradling it in both hands, opening your mouth and slamming it down. So you swallow it. Whole.

No wonder you’re choking up. It’s all the opinions.

As both sides of the same-sex marriage survey get stronger in decibels and aggression, the sporting codes are finding themselves smack bang inside the debate. A debate which so many people are calling a political one.

Take the AFL for example. Last week, they took their stance, changing the AFL sign at their headquarters to read ‘YES’.

Should you get sacked for having a no vote? Post continues after audio.

Some people weren’t happy. Sam Newman was one of these people.

“People go to the football to get away from political agendas and I don’t know why we have any political agendas,” he said on The AFL Footy Show last week.

“People go [to the football] to get away from the frustrations and barrage of political content from agenda seekers and that is their outlet and I honestly don’t know why they [the AFL] do it and I don’t know why there’s not a more strenuous demand for it to be left alone.”

Then came journalist Erin Molan, who said on Mark Latham’s Outsiders she “isn’t a big fan of it”.

“It doesn’t do the cause any good, it’s an individual thing,” she said.

“It’s almost the attempt to sway people and their opinions, that’s what I dislike about this entire thing,” she said. “Let’s let people make up their own minds — it’s unnecessary.

“I don’t think the Yes campaign need to do any of the stuff they’re doing. It’s so acceptable to vote yes.”


Soon after came ex-president of the Liberal Party John Elliott, who commented on Carlton's refusal to take a hard stance on the same-sex marriage debate.

"I don’t think you should be mixing politics with sport. It is each individual’s decision to vote yes or no,” he said, according to The Australian.

Both Molan and Newman and Elliott were clear in their opinions: keep the political far from the sporting codes.

The AFL wasn't alone in being thrust into the thick of the debate. On Wednesday, former NRL player Tony Wall created a change.org petition to prevent US rapper Macklemore from singing Same Love - a song written during the US campaign for marriage equality in 2012 - at the pre-game entertainment at the NRL grand final.

In the petition, Wall wrote:

"As a former NRL player married for the past 12 years to my wife and with five children, I demand that the NRL reconsider its political position and remove LGBTIQ politics out of the awesome sport of Rugby League."


Then there was this, from Tony Abbott:

“Footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final. Sport is sport!” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

The message is consistent: 'Sporting codes should exist in a bubble far from politics and debate, a space protected from heated discussion and diversity of opinion'.

But here's the thing.

The NRL and the AFL, in their foray into the marriage equality debate, aren't marrying the political with sport. Because although we've been conditioned to accept it so, same-sex marriage isn't about politics.

It's about human rights. About equality. And fairness, and freedom, too.

And when it comes to human rights, we can't point to an area of our society and say, that's a space that exists in a vacuum. That's a space where human rights don't matter.

In fact, these two codes are spaces where the LGBTIQ+ community have rarely felt safe, because these are communities that have - so far - failed to foster an environment where their athletes feel content to come out.

At a time like this, when the stakes are high and tensions turbulent, no one gets a free pass out or a bubble to hide in.

Because it's not political. It's human. And for that, everyone's involved.