Jeremy Finlayson of the Power celebrates a goal during the round two AFL match between Richmond Tigers and Port Adelaide Power at Melbourne Cricket Ground, on March 24, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia Source: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Backlash Follows Aussie Soccer Player's On-Field Slur, Official's Comments

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 4 MIN.

Two out soccer players joined fans and commentators in condemning not only an active player's homophobic on-field slur during a match in Australia, but the response offered by the chairman of the offending player's team.

Jeremy Finlayson of the Port Adelaide Football Club hurled the slur at a player for Essendon team the Bombers during a match on Friday, April 5, UK newspaper the Daily Mail reported.

The slur was "was picked up by an umpire's microphone at Adelaide Oval on Friday night, with Essendon players also calling it out," the Mail detailed.

Finlayson sought to make amends almost immediately, the report noted. He "informed the club at three-quarter-time that he had used the slur – then apologized to the player at fulltime."

The following day, Finlayson issued a public apology in which he said, "The word I used is very unacceptable in the game of football. We need to stamp it out and I'm very remorseful."

Finlayson said that he "knew straight away that it was not acceptable" to use such language, "and I take full responsibility."

"I addressed it at the time," the player added, noting that he had "let everyone know what happened, and it's now in the hands of the AFL to investigate."

"I'm continuing to reflect and improve myself, getting all the education I can to make myself better," Finlayson went on to say.

Two openly gay players – one no longer active, the other playing for the UNSW team the Bulldogs – called for Finlayson to face significant penalties for the hateful language, while a social media influencer demanded that officials take the situation seriously.

"Jason Ball – a former amateur footballer in Victoria who came out publicly in 2012 – said Finlayson's slur was another example of why 'no male AFL player has felt comfortable to come out,'" the Mail relayed.

"This incident must be dealt with in the same way the AFL would with a racist slur," Ball declared. "Both are harmful to people and harmful to our game.

"We need to see education for players and coaches," Ball went on to add, "and we need to see proactive campaigns to stamp out homophobic language whether on the field or in the stands, at the elite level and at the grassroots."

Meanwhile, "Michael O'Donnell, who plays for UNSW's Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs in Sydney and is openly gay, said local-level football clubs have been incredibly inclusive of his sexuality," the Mail added.

Calling Finlayson's use of the slur "incredibly disappointing," O'Donnell said the moment presented "an opportunity for the AFL to show this is no longer acceptable in football."

"It is not like it was 20 to 25 years ago when these sort of comments were far more commonplace," O'Donnell added.

Public comments by the chairman of the Port Adelaide Football Club, David Koch, only added fuel to the flames when he said that a "benchmark" had already been determined by an earlier incident and should guide the penalty that Finlayson will face.

Addressing the situation on the sports program "Offsiders," Koch referred to an incident during the preseason in which a coach, Alastair Clarkson, got into a verbal exchange with two players from an opposing team and called one of them a "cocksucker."

Koch drew distinctions between the two incidents, noting that Clarkson was "a 55-year-old coach" whose actions, he said, were "premeditated, target the player, walk up to them," and opined that that situation was "very different to a player in the heat of battle," as was the case when Finlayson hurled his slur.

Koch suggested that "if you're going to look at a comparison," the disciplinary measures handed down to Clarkson – a $20,000 fine and a two-game suspension that was held in abeyance – "would be the benchmark."

Fans weighed in, slamming Koch for what they said was his attempt to avoid having one of his own players benched.

"A slur is a slur is a slur," actor Matthew Backer protested in a post addressed to Koch. "You say you don't condone a player using a homophobic slur on the field and that there's no excuse but in the same sentence practically excuse it by saing [sic] it occurred 'in the heat of battle'... So disappointing."

Another, referencing how Koch sidestepped a question about the much stiffer penalty handed down to a player for a 2021 incident involving a racial slur, wrote: "David Koch: Homophobia is OK, but racism is not."

Another posted similar sentiments:

A post from the LGBTQ+ Port Adelaide fan group the Rainbow Crows called out Finlayson's language, saying "The AFL is not a safe space for everyone," but adding, "WE appreciate Jeremy and the Port Adelaide Football club for their actions and statements thus far following the event."

TikTok influencer Scott O'Halloran slammed Koch, the Mail reported in a separate article, declaring the penalty imposed on Clarkson was clearly no deterrent and noting that such language would not be tolerated in most other work environments.

Clarkson, O'Halloran said, "used a homophobic slur and all he got was a small fine in comparison to the man's salary, and he has clearly not deterred the player, Jeremy Finlayson, to use a homophobic slur out on the field."

O'Halloran went on to make a number of more general points in his remarks.

"The toll on our mental health for our community outweighs these small fines," he said, before going on to note: "There has never been a gay AFL player that has come out of the closet and I wonder why."

"It comes from the top down," O'Halloran added, calling on AFL to "be a leader."

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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