Gold Coast's Wil Powell (centre).
Gold Coast's Wil Powell has been suspended for five games for making a homophobic slur. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

Suns defender Powell banned for homophobic slur

Anna Harrington May 9, 2024

Gold Coast defender Wil Powell says he “instantly regretted” his homophobic slur at a Brisbane opponent which resulted in a five-game AFL ban.

Powell is appealing for forgiveness while vowing to better educate himself after the AFL announced his suspension on Thursday.

Powell’s ban comes less than a month after Port Adelaide’s Jeremy Finlayson was suspended for three games for his homophobic verbal abuse of an Essendon player.

“In the moment that I said the word that I said, I instantly regretted it,” Powell told reporters on the Gold Coast.

“I knew it was the wrong thing to say.

“Even before the Finlayson (case) it was known it’s not to be tolerated.

“The punishment is the punishment. I have now got to educate myself … I’ll learn from this and I sincerely apologise and I am very regretful for what I said.

“I’ve apologised to the staff upstairs and I asked if they could forgive me for what I’ve said.”

The AFL said Powell’s slur used in the Suns’ loss at the Gabba on Sunday “demeans and denigrates any person regardless of their sexuality”.

Powell’s ban was longer than Finlyason’s due to the proximity of the two incidents and the AFL wanting to deter such conduct.

“It is extremely disappointing to be dealing with a similar incident in only a matter of weeks,” AFL general counsel Stephen Meade said in a statement.

“The AFL acknowledges Powell’s remorse and co-operation, and while it has considered the circumstances in which the comment was made, there are no excuses for this conduct in our game.

“We foreshadowed both publicly and privately that after what transpired (with Finlayson) at Gather Round if a similar incident was to happen there would be further consequence.

“There could be no clearer message – homophobia has no place in our game, nor in society. 

“We want all people in the community to feel welcomed in our game, and comments such as Powell’s only takes away from this. As a code, as a community, we all must be better.”

It is the third incident of homophobic language this year.

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson was fined $20,000 and received a suspended two-game ban for his pre-season tirade towards St Kilda duo Jimmy Webster and Dougal Howard.

Powell apologised to the Brisbane player during the game, at the conclusion of the game, and again in the hours after the match.

The Suns’ chief executive Mark Evans condemned Powell’s actions as “completely unacceptable”.

“I want to make sure people understand we are not walking away from the error of the comment and how harmful that can be,” Evans told reporters.

“And, like the AFL, we want those comments eradicated from our game, we would love them eradicated from society.

“We’ve committed to working with Wil on how he improves himself and part of that will be how he addresses the playing groups and the staff.

“From my understanding the (Brisbane) player has said he didn’t take offence at the comment and has accepted the apology – but that player is put into a position he should not have been put into.”

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