Gary Burns has announced that he’s lodged a complaint with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board against Channel Nine’s The Footy Show.
The complaint refers to a sketch that aired earlier this month, where footy players Andrew and Matthew Johns reflect on their childhood, growing up with a fictitious gay sibling, Elton Johns.
The sketch flashes back to childhood moments where Andrew and Matthew are playing footy, while Elton is described as ‘unco-ordinated’ and a ‘hazard’, dressed in camp sunglasses and an orange feather boa. At one point the father of the boys takes young Elton back to the hospital where he was born and asks for a refund, saying that the boy is ‘faulty’. Another moment sees the father talk about how he thinks Elton was switched at birth, because of his homosexuality. Photos also depict young Elton kissing a pig, and recoiling from breast feeding as an infant.
Gary Burns told SX that the sketch was “a very clear-cut case of anti-gay vilification” and that the humour “clearly portrays homosexual men as objects of ridicule.” Burns said that if the jokes were made against Jews, Aboriginals or Asian people then they’d never make it on TV.
Matthew Johns has since been stood down indefinitely from his hosting role on the Nine Network program after becoming embroiled in a group sex scandal, kicked off by an episode of ABC’s Four Corners. Johns has also lost his position on the Melbourne Storm coaching staff.
“I am asking for a full page apology in the pages of SX at the moment,” Burns told Same Same. “I will also be seeking a ‘on air’ apology on the footy show from its presenters. Gay footballer Ian Roberts phoned me yesterday offering his support.”
Burns told Same Same that jokes like these can drive gay teenagers to suicide.
“Pernicious comments like these question the self worth in many gay teenagers because of issues of low self-esteem when dealing with their own sexuality [and] coming out… Gay teenagers are vulnerable and commentary suggesting gay men are sick or faulty is unlawful homosexuality vilification. It’s not acceptable to paint homosexuals as products of ridicule anymore.”