The AFL’s head of inclusion has spoken about Giants player Haneen Zreika, after the AFLW player refused to play wearing a guernsey celebrating Pride Round.
- GWS’s Haneen Zreika sat out the AFLW’s Pride Round because she said the round’s meaning clashed with her Islamic faith
- AFL inclusivity head Tanya Hosch says administrators had plenty of warning before Zreika made her decision
- She said the league wanted to acknowledge people of all faiths, without alienating LGBTQIA players, staff and fans
Zreika, a practicing Muslim, sat out the league’s Pride Round as she believed the rainbow-themed uniform did not represent her faith.
The head of the AFL’s inclusion and social policy, Tanya Hosch, told the ABC’s The W podcast that inclusion was a complicated matter.
“People of faith have rights as well,” Hosch said.
“We say we’re a game for everyone and here we’ve got a situation where we’ve got someone who feels they’ve got to make a decision on whether or not they’ll play based on a uniform that they don’t feel they should be representing in.
“We want the game to be inclusive, you don’t get to choose to just pick and choose who represents inclusion.”
Hosch revealed the AFL had been grappling with the issue for a number of weeks.
“I had a bit more awareness of it ahead of it entering the public domain, which I think the first thing to say was critical,” she said.
A player deciding to opt out of Pride Round, for whatever reason, could have wide-ranging repercussions for the AFL.
The AFL Women’s competition held its second official Pride Round last month. The aim of the round, according to the AFLW’s homepage, is to host a “celebration of diversity and inclusivity within the game and community”.
Hosch, a Torres Strait Islander and the AFL’s second female executive, said she had to consult her peers both in and outside of the AFL sphere.
“I had the privilege of hearing from Haneen first-hand about the situation she found herself in,” she said.
“Then I had to consult a whole range of other people with expertise that I don’t have, which included speaking with the president of the Human Rights Commission, Ro Allen; the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner of Victoria, who’s previously the Gender and Sexuality Commissioner in Victoria, and certainly spoke to other Muslim leaders who I know and who have been around football.”
For Zreika, the female code’s first Muslim player, the round presented an “extremely difficult” moral dilemma and decision.
“As the first Australian Muslim woman in the AFLW, I have a responsibility to represent my faith and my community,” Zreika wrote.
“I respect people, regardless of their sexual orientation.
“This decision was extremely difficult, and I appreciate the support of AFL, Giants, my teammates.
“Inclusion is about creating a space where people are able to respect their right to choose how they live their life as long as they don’t advocate hate and division.
“My platform is not a place for people to disrespect and harass others so please be kind.”
Zreika, 22, is described as an up-and-coming leader in the Muslim community and wearing a Pride-themed guernsey for the Giants may have impacted that standing.
Up until Tuesday, the AFL had yet to speak publicly about the issue.
The AFL, and by extension the AFLW, promote the game on its core tenets of inclusion, respect, doing no harm and that players of all faiths have rights too.
“Obviously this is one of those situations where there’s an intersection of rights,” Hosch said.
“So we have programs that are actively encouraging Islamic people to be involved in our sport but we’re also extremely proud of AFLW having a whole round dedicated to Rainbow communities.
“Obviously it’s a cohort in AFLW that have been out and proud right from the start.
“You know, this is about a round that is supposed to be about inclusion, awareness, visibility, celebration, respect, acknowledgement — all of those things.
“So navigating that with someone’s faith that says, you know, those issues are impermissible in their faith and wanting to support them to find their way through that was not a quick conversation.”
Hosch said the AFL was eager to pursue an outcome that avoided the negative political discourse and discomfort that surrounded the same-sex marriage plebiscite of 2017.
“What was foremost in my mind was how do we deal with this without doing harm to anybody and without creating another divisive moment, where the country has a conversation through one AFLW player whose job it should not be to carry such a conversation,” Hosch said.
“What was very evident to me throughout my engagement with various people at GWS was the huge amount of respect between the playing group and the staff at the club around this conversation.”
Hosch said the AFL would “deeply reflect” on its guidelines during the next 12 months to ensure they articulate the rights of all to co-exist within the game.
Source: AFL NEWS ABC