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Gay Australian Rules footballers should stay in the closet, a veteran player said on Thursday, warning the deeply traditional sport is not ready for open homosexuality.
Western Bulldogs star Jason Akermanis, commenting on rumours that one man was about to 'out' himself as the sport'sstar first openly gay player, said the revelation could "break the fabric of a club".
"If a player wants to out himself, then I say good luck," he wrote in his Herald-Sun newspaper column.
"But I believe the world of AFL (Australian Football League) footy is not ready for it.
To come out is unnecessary for a lot of reasons.
"Imagine the publicity associated with a current player admitting he's gay. It would be international news and could break the fabric of a club."
Akermanis, 33, denied any bias against gays but said the macho culture of the AFL, which has its origins in the 1800s, could easily be upset.
"Never in a mall will you see two straight men hugging, arse-slapping and jumping around like kids after an important goal," he wrote.
"Locker room nudity and homoerotic activities are normal inside footy clubs."
Retired swimmer Daniel Kowalski, a four-time Olympic medallist who came out last month, immediately slammed the comments.
"I'm disappointed, I'm mad, I'm angry, I'm sad," he told Triple M radio.
"When you get comments like that from a guy of his stature, why would you come out?"
Despite a celebrated sporting culture Australia has few openly gay athletes, with Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham and former rugby league international Ian Roberts among the exceptions.
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