HAWTHORN star footballer Lance “Buddy” Franklin has released a special footy for kids called the Buddyball.
Using his award-winning profile, Franklin markets the “ultimate training buddy” to young lads who turn up at Auskick events.
But is he the kind of friend – or role model – boys need?
Franklin is co-director, owner and model of Nena and Pasadena, a clothing brand specialising in porn-inspired T-shirts.
It’s a company he is proud of.
In Franklin’s “fun and vibrant” brand, women are depicted naked or semi-naked. Some are headless or unclothed on all fours. His latest campaign video shows a fully naked woman.
An image on Nena and Pasadena’s Facebook page bears the slogan “F— bitches, get money”. Is that Franklin’s idea of fun?
On the same page, the street-wear brand encourages fans to send their tips for getting sex, offering prizes for the best strategies.
There are jokes about drugging and assaulting women. A few examples: “I like to call it the ‘fight and struggle’,” “the skull drag to the bushes and then duct tape the mouth move”, “I hope to God they can’t run faster than me down that alleyway”.
Another fan tweeted about a Nena and Pasadena T-shirt of two women kissing, that he would “like to smash there (sic) backdoors in”. That’s a reference to violent anal sex, if you didn’t know.
The company heartily encourages them: “Keep ‘em coming guys – this is very entertaining!”
Sharing your desires to brutalise and degrade women is “entertaining”, apparently.
This kind of everyday sexism is so normal and mainstream that objecting to it attracts a torrent of abuse.
The company says we don’t need to buy its products. No, but we are forced to see their porn-themed T-shirts in the public spaces we all inhabit. And positioning women as existing solely for male gratification harms all women (note, encouraging women to buy into their own objectification with a women’s range doesn’t make it any better).
But the entitled mini gods of the sporting world don’t like being called to account – even when they are in breach of their codes’ policies.
The AFL’s Respect and Responsibility Policy “represents the Australian Football League’s commitment to addressing violence against women and to work towards creating safe, supportive and inclusive environments for women and girls across the football industry as well as the broader community”.
“Violence against women and behaviour that harms or degrades women is never acceptable,” the code states.
Strong words. But when will Franklin be pulled into line?
Some of us have been trying to get the AFL to act on what appears to be Franklin’s normalisation of sexual representations of women for more than a year. Such depictions of women erode the AFL’s efforts to change the disrespectful attitudes of many of their players.
Buddyball reps say some of the proceeds from the ball’s sales go to help indigenous communities. That’s all good, but Franklin is effectively giving permission to men to treat women badly, including in those communities.
Franklin has now said he had asked his company to “remove all offensive imagery and comments that do not reflect my views, which they’ve done”. But he is still selling his offensive T-shirts, including from his Chapel St store.
You’d think the AFL would act more quickly, given its code and past efforts to rein in bad behaviour. Remember the AFL’s interactive DVD to help players understand that perhaps it’s not a good idea to pretend to be your best mate so you can have sex with his girlfriend?
Of course, disrespectful behaviour toward women isn’t the preserve of AFL players alone.
Sexual misconduct, harassment, indecent exposure, violence and other acts of contempt for women have been seen in all codes. The NRL has been rocked by sexual misconduct and allegations of sexual assault by high-profile players, exposed on ABC’s Four Corners in 2009.
SPORTSMEN continue to be implicated in crimes against women. Only this week Victoria Police has confirmed it will review the brief of evidence in the case against star St Kilda forward Stephen Milne, accused of rape in 2004. A 19-year-old accused Milne of raping her at Leigh Montagna’s house after a St Kilda club family day in 2004.
In the minds of too many sport stars, women are up for grabs, a conquest of the game.
In Channel 9′s player revue, before last year’s Grand Final, footballers from various teams “performed”. The show featured scantily dressed women with legs spread, a pole dancing scene and players with their hands down their pants simulating masturbation. All for the mad-keen boys watching the show before the big game.
It is time to address the culture of collusion in which sporting clubs offer little more than faint damnation for sexist behaviour.
The chief executives of sporting organisations should develop a code of conduct that would treat offences against women even more strictly than taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Franklin is a football ambassador. Boys look up to him. His personal code of conduct should be beyond disrepute.
By profiting from the degradation of women and hosting content intimating violence against them, he fails himself and the sport he represents and all the young men who see him as a hero.
AFL corporate affairs manager James Tonkin said the AFL didn’t condone the images used in Franklin’s clothing range.
“We consider it inappropriate and inconsistent with our respect and responsibility policy and we’ll be considering our options.”
Many women – including those whose sons are keen to play the game – will be waiting to see what that really means.