Adelaide ruckman Reilly O’Brien has defending his picture alongside controversial author and psychologist Jordan Peterson.
Peterson rose to prominence in 2016 via his YouTube series Professor Against Political Correctness, questioning whether climate change is real and calling Welcome to Country messages “propaganda”.
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But Peterson has also built a devoted following with more than 5.6m Instagram followers and 6.16m subscribers on YouTube.
O’Brien, who took a photo alongside Peterson which he shared on Instagram along with the caption: “A great man”.
O’Brien told The Advertiser he didn’t agree with everything Peterson espoused but was amused by the backlash.
“In society it’s hard to have a point of view without getting shot down, especially with someone like that who doesn’t agree with the mainstream narrative a lot of the time,” O’Brien said.
“I think we’d like more opinions, especially from AFL players. AFL players can be a bit vanilla compared to American sports, for example.
“I think there can be a lot more interest can be generated if players can be themselves and express their views.
“Obviously you don’t want to be expressing crazy views, but expressing views and having a bit more interest outside of footy.”
Peterson has caused plenty of controversy over the years.
He called plus-size Sports Illustrated model Yumi Nu “not beautiful” after she appeared on the magazine cover.
“Sorry. Not beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that,” he wrote to his 2.7 million followers.
Peterson was also banned from Twitter last June for his comments on transgender athletes and women.
He also pushed back against Covid-19 vaccines and restrictions in Canada, in one instance claiming the Canadian PM would have to kill him before getting a booster.
However, his 2018 self-help book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos – which encouraged readers to stand up straight, not bother children skateboarding and avoid petting stray cats – sold more than three million copies worldwide.
But O’Reilly said it was only a small minority who criticised the Canadian and that Peterson “probably saved millions of people from the brink in terms of their mental health”.
“In my opinion, he’s a pretty mainstream figure, he’s sold-out stadiums around Australia and probably been one of the best-selling authors in the world the last few years,” he said.
“I’ve got a lot out of his work in terms of the psychology side, in terms of taking responsibility.
“He’s been a huge influence on me and a lot of people I know.”