U.K. Soccer Stars Shy Away from Pro-Gay Ad
A planned video against homophobia in the U.K. that would have relied on the star power of soccer greats has been left high and dry, and the GLBT equality advocate who proposed the campaign is unhappy about it.
EDGE previously reported on the ad campaign, which was proposed to the U.K.'s soccer authority, the Football Association, by Peter Tatchell, a British politician and the leader of OutRage!. In the wake of the video's being pulled before its premiere, Tatchell issued a press release condemning the project's abandonment--which, claims the Football Association, is only temporary. Tatchell, however, is having none of it.
"The Football Association's commitment to tackling homophobia has taken a severe battering," Tatchell declared in his release. "After removing many key individuals and groups from its highly effective Tackling Homophobia Working Group, it has now suddenly postponed this week's planned launch of its ground-breaking anti-homophobia video advert."
The video is not available to view on YouTube, but it can be seen at American gay news site AfterElton. The AfterElton posting also notes that GLBT equality advocates such as John Amaeche have expressed disappointment in the video, which was to have premiered Feb. 12 at Wembley Stadium; even Tatchell admitted that the video was not what he had envisioned.
Even so, Tatchell sharply denounced the delay of the video's premiere. "While the FA and other national football associations have long challenged racism, the video is the first high-profile attempt to give homophobia the red card," Tatchell wrote. "A world first for football, it's release this week would have given the FA huge prestige; stamping its mark as a trail-blazing organization that is leading the world in making football welcoming and safe for gay players, fans and officials."
Tatchell went on to explain the strategy for video's release. "The plan was to put it on YouTube, do a viral campaign via the Internet and get all professional clubs to broadcast it on stadium screens at half-time.
"The last minute postponement came just days before the launch and weeks after the official invites were sent out," Tatchell wrote, "causing dismay among football and gay groups who were backing the project, including the football diversity and equality campaign, Kick It Out, and the gay rights groups OutRage! and the Gay Football Supporters Network.
"Although there are fears that the video might be quietly shelved, the FA insists that the launch has been delayed, not cancelled. It justifies the postponement with the claim that it needs to review its strategy on tackling anti-gay prejudice and how the video fits into the overall campaign," Tatchell wrote. "The FA's justification is hard to swallow. The video and strategy was agreed nearly two years ago and reconfirmed late last year. I know because I proposed the idea and have helped guide it through the FA's decision-making procedures. It was conceived as one strand in a multi-strand strategy to challenge prejudice on the pitch and on the terraces. The FA saw and approved the video script. It delegated Kick It Out to produce it in association with the Ogilvy ad agency. "
"I suspect the real reason for the deferment is that when top FA officials saw the video they felt uneasy over its visceral homophobic language, even though this abuse is intended to expose and shame bigots," Tatchell went on. "They lacked the confidence to defend the video they commissioned, in the same way they have often failed to robustly condemn homophobia on the pitch."
AfterElton reported that the openly gay Amaeche, who came out after retiring from the NBA, characterized the video as "expletive-laden rant," with the article going on to encourage readers to view the video--but not while at work: the language is far too strong, AfterElton cautioned.
The ad shows a man behaving in every-day life the way that soccer fans sometimes conduct themselves at matches, with a man hurling homophobic slurs at a newspaper vendor, a man on the subway, and office colleagues, calling them "queer scum," "ass bandit," and "faggot," among other epithets. The ad asks why behavior that is plainly not acceptable on the street or in a professional environment should be tolerated in the stands. "There's nothing like showing someone how bad they look to change behavior," the AfterElton article read. "But is it something you can play in a football stadium, with families and kids?"
"The video that has been produced was not my first preference," acknowledged Tatchell in his release. "I always argued for an MTV-style format, with an uplifting, positive message, featuring a good music track and top straight players speaking out against homophobia. I wanted to see big-name stars like David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, David James and Stephen Gerard give homophobia the boot. Their involvement would have sent an influential message to fans in Britain and worldwide; helping promote the idea that homophobia is uncool and unacceptable. Sadly, I was out-voted." However, Tatchell went on, "The video agreed by the Football Association and Kick It Out takes a different, but also valid, angle to challenge homophobia. It features strong, arresting homophobic language."
Tatchell explained the logic behind the approach that was ultimately chosen. "The ad agency's advice was that shock tactics could be an effective psychological device to expose and shame bigoted fans into toning down their homophobia," he wrote. "I can see their reasoning and believe the video will help challenge some of the bigots we are targeting."
Tatchell went on to put the ad's delay in the context of other factors. "The video launch postponement comes on top of the FA's dissolution of the broad-based Tackling Homophobia Working Group," he wrote. "Set up several years ago, the group had helped push forward many of the FA's constructive initiatives to rid football of homophobia. These include amending the FA's ground rules to render people who chant anti-gay taunts liable to eviction from stadiums and arrest. Regrettably, enforcement is still weak and patchy. The FA needs to be more robust in requiring stewards to identify fans who shout homophobic abuse and to insist that the police arrest and charge them--in the same way that they arrest and charge racist fans."