Caught behind: Sport, sexuality and reputation

cricket ball being hit by bat

Issues across sexuality, gender and behaviour have been on stark display across Australian sporting codes this past month, with positive approaches from the AFL and A-League scoring goals, while Cricket Australia got caught behind without playing a shot to confronting questions about Tim Paine’s sexts.

Paine made a tearful resignation as Australian captain ahead of publication of a four year-old lewd text exchange with a Cricket Tasmania staffer, while Cricket Australia remained silent. Administrators had investigated Paine at the time, cleared him of misconduct and then appointed him to the captaincy, but had now urged Paine to fall on his sword.

Why act in response to a media inquiry? The only suggestion was that current administrators may have made a different decision if in power at the time - but these officials were aware of the incident and did nothing until public exposure loomed.

Paine quit the captaincy with his cleanskin reputation substantively diminished, but with some sympathy. After an agonising week he stepped back from the sport entirely, in need of a mental health break.

It left Cricket Australia looking disloyal, hypocritical and incompetent, refusing to explain its stance on the departure of one of the nation’s figureheads. Navigating these issues is difficult, but organisations need to at least be transparent and accountable.

Meanwhile, other codes were demonstrating maturity and humanity. Young Josh Cavallo was nervous to come out as an openly gay A-League player, but his team, Adelaide United, backed him, uploading an emotional video on the move.

“We stand alongside Josh for proudly being true to himself and will continue to love and support him as a member of our beautifully diverse family,” stated the club.

There was an outpouring of support, not just from fans but from soccer stars across the globe.

In the traditionally macho AFL came an even more surprising embrace of the gender transition of former coach and player Danielle Laidley.

In times past, footy clubs would have turned their back, or worse, and not just because increased acceptance of transsexuality is a recent phenomenon. Laidely’s transition came to light in troubled circumstances, arrested for stalking and drug possession. Her gender transition was revealed through the inexcusable leaking of shots of a distressed Laidley in the police station.

Her old team, North Melbourne, quietly offered support, before carefully staging Laidley’s public return in the most supportive way possible. Surrounded by other club greats, she said: “I’m very proud today. It’s probably the first time I’ve represented my old tribe and my new tribe.”

This weekend the Herald Sun even featured a fashion shoot of Laidley, along with an interview addressing the challenges she had faced.

Sometimes standing for something, rather than ducking the difficult issues, can enrich us all.

Mark Forbes, Director of Icon Reputation

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