South Africa’s first gay rugby team has recently launched a provocative recruitment campaign hoping to get more players on board while addressing the issue of homophobia in sports.
The Jozi Cats rugby club from Johannesburg introduced posters showing its players alongside slurs like ‘fudge packer,’ ‘pansy’ and ‘flamer’ that are commonly used to target gay athletes.
Organisers who named the campaign ‘What Kind of Player Are You?’ want people to question the stereotypes surrounding gay sportsmen.
‘We’re looking to just challenge the preconception that because you don’t look like a conventional rugby player, that you can’t be a conventional rugby player,’ said Teveshan Kuni, chairman of the Jozi Cats.
He added: ‘We completely just want to show people that rugby is a sport like anything else. It’s skills, it’s fitness, it’s love and it’s dedication.’
Head of Havas Public Relations South Africa, Chris Verrijdt, who’s the creator of the campaign remarked that he and the rugby team strived for a concept that would be both ‘disruptive and sensitive.’
‘We did research about derogatory terms for gay men that would translate to a wider audience — trust me, there are some truly awful ones out there — and so we picked the ones that didn’t need explanation, that we could represent visually and walked the fine line between acceptable and offensive,’ Verrijdt revealed to The Huffington Post.
Verrijdt also hopes that the campaign would help normalise the idea of gay men in sports and promote inclusivity.
‘Though it is hard hitting and disruptive, it’s really to kind of normalise things, to let people know that you can be a queen and be a rugby player,’ said Verrijdt.
‘You can be a pillow biter or fudge packer or any of those derogatory terms, and still be a man. We’re not questioning masculinity here.
‘If anything we’re saying, “Well are you or aren’t you? It doesn’t matter. We just need you to play for the team.”‘
South Africa became the fifth country in the world to recognise same-sex marriage in 2006.
And even though rugby is one of South Africa’s most popular sports, the Jozi Cats team is the country’s only openly gay team, and for the entire African continent too.
Player Anthony Seger, who modelled for the ‘Fudge packer?’ poster, commented that there are more to be done to raise awareness about homophobia and acceptance of gay athletes in the country.
‘It’s such a relevant time for this conversation to be had,’ said Seger. ‘We have one of the world’s most liberal constitutions, but culturally, we’re still quite a conservative bunch of people.’
He also believes that the campaign is going to be a game-changer:
‘It’s going to be disruptive, it’s going to be a conversation starter, but ultimately we hope it’s going to create awareness so that people know there’s a space where guys who are gay can play rugby and feel completely safe.’
Kuni added that sports can be another outlet for gay men to meet:
‘If you’re sick of the gay dating apps and you’re not somebody who goes to gay bars or gay clubs, there’s simply no alternative space to meet anybody.’
Watch what happened behind the scenes of the campaign’s photo shoot here: