A gay and inclusive South African competitive rugby team wants to recruit new players... by reclaiming homophobic slurs.
The Jozi Cats, which are based in Johannesburg, have launched a cheeky new campaign which features photographs of the burly players emblazoned with taglines like "flamer?" and "pansy?" Organizers say the "What Kind of Player Are You?" effort, which kicked off May 4, is meant to question -- rather than reinforce -- the stereotypes that exist around gay male athletes.
"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," Teveshan Kuni, who is the chairman of the Jozi Cats, said of the campaign in a behind-the-scenes video, which can be viewed above. "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."
Chris Verrijdt, who is the head of Havas Public Relations South Africa, said the "What Kind of Player Are You?" campaign was very much a collaboration between his company and Jozi Cats team members. Although South Africa is generally considered to have a progressive attitude toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, Verrijdt and the team decided early on that they wanted 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 told The Huffington Post. Some of the team's players, he said, are still struggling to come to terms with their sexuality, so extra consideration was given to make the campaign as all-encompassing as possible.
Given the controversial terms the campaign uses, Verrijdt said he and the team were expecting some backlash, but ultimately, believe any opportunity to create dialogue around LGBT issues is a positive thing.
"Our job, ultimately, is to get the word out there that there is a place where you can be gay and a rugby player, and be who you are without fear of discrimination," he told HuffPost. "When the naysayers and haters have their say, it will show that we still need to have these kinds of conversations in South Africa and wherever discrimination still takes place."