THE National Basketball League and one of its biggest stars have come out in support of same-sex marriage.
In the wake of the NRL, Athletics Australia, the FFA and other sporting organisations confirming their support publicly in the last week, the NBL and league chief executive Jeremy Loeliger have stated their support.
The move has been applauded by Illawarra Hawks star centre AJ Ogilvy, who has made a passionate plea for people to support the ‘Yes’ campaign.
Those that follow the 29-year-old on social media will know he has long advocated his stance.
Speaking to the Illawarra Mercury with the support of his club, Ogilvy is calling for Australians to ensure the Federal Government has no choice when the votes of the postal poll are counted.
"After all the campaigning, yelling matches, ads, money spent and votes cast it all goes back to Parliament for them to do what they should have done from the start,” Ogilvy said.
“The only thing we can do is send a loud and clear message that as Australians we demand equality"
Mr Loeliger said the league supported the ‘Yes’ campaign while acknowledging “the different opinions across Australia on the issue”.
The only thing we can do is send a loud and clear message that as Australians we demand equalityAJ Ogilvy
"Basketball prides itself on being the most accessible sport in Australia and one that is open to everyone in the community and the NBL is firmly committed to the values of inclusion and diversity,” Mr Loeliger said.
"We support the right of same sex couples to marry and believe a yes vote in the plebiscite will only reinforce Australia's reputation as a progressive, open and diverse nation."
Ogilvy realises speaking out publicly on this issue may draw criticism, but said he felt it important to do so.
“This is personal. As Australians, this is personal to us all,” he said.
“We all have friends or family who are a part of the LGBTI community and I think equality is personal.
“It’s a sign - at this time and place - of disrespect when countries have already passed marriage equality and we are so far behind everyone else. It is a personal issue.”
For Ogilvy “wasting” $122million on a non-binding postal vote is a concerning proposition.
“There is so many other things that money could be spent on,” he said.
“It also exposes a bunch of vulnerable youths to a lot of information that’s wrong.
“The ‘no’ campaign is demonising the LGBTI community and it’s harmful. I was reading some counselling services have had a 20 per cent increase in calls and another one had 20 times the number of calls from LGBTI youth because there’s all these people talking about them, their way of life and how they see themselves. Unfortunately that’s the result of this postal survey.”
Since arriving in 2015, AJ Ogilvy has embraced the Illawarra and the community has embraced him. He is now a proud Illawarra householder and ratepayer.
The three-time All-NBL First-Team arrived on a one-year deal initially, but is now in the second season of a three-year deal with the Hawks who are preparing another assault having made the NBL finals for the past two seasons straight.
“I love the Illawarra, love my house and love the community …. I love being here, man, there’s no place I’d rather be,” he said. “If you want to go to the beach you can go to one of the 45,000 beaches here, you can drive and you can find a park.”
The beach is where AJ and his closest companions Chloe, a German shorthaired pointer and Samuel, a Japanese Spitz cross Cavalier King Charles spaniel, can often be found.
There is little doubt AJ Ogilvy is at home here and like many of his team-mates he pays homage to Illawarra Hawks coach Rob Beveridge.
“I had so much success and fun in that first year I couldn’t see myself playing basketball anywhere else,” he said.
“Bevo committing long term to the club is a big part of the reason why I did too.
“You know what you are getting with Bevo.
“We kept nine people from last year’s team. I’ve never played on a team that’s done that. It’s unheard of.”
At this stage, AJ Ogilvy considers a career in helping develop or coach basketballers might be in his future at the end of his playing career.
Yet despite his latest stance on marriage equality he’s quick to dispel the potential of a political career.
“I’m a dual citizen,” he said with a laugh.
“I’d have to hand in my Irish citizenship and it makes it too easy to travel.”
AJ Ogilvy and the Illawarra Hawks will take on arch rivals the Sydney Kings in a preseason game on Saturday night from 6.30 pm at the Snakepit. Tickets are still available via www.hawks.com.au.