Players support AFL stance against religious freedom bill

“Sport unites people and the big players within sport need to be the players driving that message,” Vescio said.

“I know everyone has different beliefs and come from different places and that needs to be respected as well but I think if you’re driving messaging that actually discriminates against minorities or makes certain groups of people feel like they don’t belong, that’s not OK.

Haneen Zreika of GWS, Akec Chout of Richmond and Vescio. Credit:AFL Photos/Dylan Burns

“We should only be progressing forward into a more inclusive space and if people are allowed to divide or if it empowers them then that’s a negative thing.”

Sydney Swans defender Aliir said the inclusive environment was “very important”.

“Just the fact there are all different backgrounds for me it’s good, it allows me to tap in on their cultures and learn what they do and vice versa,” he said.

“The whole big picture is being included and feeling a sense of belonging. It’s not just about me, there’s a bigger picture … we want to be able to involve everyone.

“100 per cent I have always felt comfortable in this environment. The AFL has been great, and I am at a great club, they’re like a second family to me.”

Richmond dual premiership player and devout Muslim Houli said he wasn’t across the proposed bill, but backed the AFL on their efforts to be inclusive.

“We trust the AFL. Whatever decisions they go with we trust them. Look at this [multicultural] program, the AFL is all for inclusion and to be able to be a game for all,” Houli said.


Vescio, Aliir and Houli join 16 other ambassadors from all levels of footy in the multicultural program, which has returned after an absence of a few years. Dyson Heppell, Haneen Zreika, Lin Jong, Stephen Coniglio and Nic Naitanui are among the other ambassadors.

“In season 2019, 13 per cent of all AFL and AFLW players were from multicultural backgrounds, but we need to grow the size of the cultural diversity in our game, so our multicultural ambassadors will play an important role in engaging with future generations of diverse talent to ensure this number is more reflective of our community,” the AFL’s inclusion and social policy general manager Tanya Hosch said.

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