- Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane has said that if the vilification of Adam Goodes does not stop, players may have to take matters “into their own hands” and walk off the field in protest.
He also said that the booing of Goodes was racist, had gone too far and was damaging not just the game but also our society. Soutphommasane went on to say:
- “We can only hope that the AFL, its clubs and captains can help put this to an end.
“If things do not improve – and assuming Goodes plays on – it may have to come to the players taking matters into their own hands.
“In Europe, there have been occasions in football when teams have walked off the pitch in protest against racist abuse. What an indictment on our society it would be, were things to come to reach such a point.”
The AFL has issued a statement, which condemns racism, but carefully avoids saying the booing was racist, only that it was felt as racist by Goodes.
I think this is a casuistic argument. No doubt some are motivated by racism, some are mindlessly piling in, some are trying to upset a player from the opposing team, some may be explained in other ways. I think it was the head of Richmond who said it was bullying at best, racism at worst, and in any case unacceptable.
NRL stars Jonathan Thurston and Greg Inglis are reported to be planning to do an Aboriginal dance in support of Goodes. This could end badly. I think footballers should stick to playing football on the park.
If the booing were isolated, officials should eject those indulging in the behaviour. However the booing was so widespread at the recent Swans-West Coast Eagles match that such a strategy would have been ineffective. In such a case the match should be called off, and the following home game should be played in an empty stadium. It’s not up to the players to act, action should come from the AFL.
As to the background, there was an incident during the ‘Indigenous Round’ in 2013, when a Collingwood supporter, a 13 year-old girl, called Goodes an ape. Goodes won plaudits for calling for her to be supported, Eddie McGuire made an ass of himself, but life went on. The incident appeared to be done and dusted.
Goodes was Australian of the Year in 2014.
I think it was during the ‘Indigenous Round’ in 2014, that Goodes performed a little dance after kicking a goal. In retrospect it may have been better to stick to football, but it was innocent enough. I think that’s right, but frankly I don’t pay much attention to the AFL.
He definitely suffered booing during the grand final against the Hawks, but I’m not sure it occurred in other games in 2014. This year it has happened repeatedly and appears to be getting worse.
State political leaders in WA, SA, NSW and Victoria have made statements, but so far we’ve only heard from Richard Di Natale (thankyou John D) at the federal level. More power to him!
Be sure to read Stan Grant’s powerful piece on what it feels like to be an Indigenous Australian.
Michael Safi sketches the history and puts the problem well. In the end he says:
- Probably for some the jeers are mindless, just revelling in something taboo. But increasingly, that dull drone is sounding like an assertion of power: crowds of non-Indigenous people declaring, “We will keep doing this and you can’t stop us”.
If Goodes returns and the booing continues, the AFL will need to take quite drastic action.
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