Abuse of Aboriginal footballer divides Australian opinion
Adam Goodes could retire over abuse that exposes ambivalent attitudes to racism
Australian rules football star Adam Goodes, who is contemplating retirement from the game because of continuing racial abuse. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters
The 35-year-old is not only a superb athlete –he has won two premiership medals with the Swans – but was also named Australian of the Year in 2014 for charity work and advocacy againstracism.
But Goodes, who is Aboriginal, can no longer take the relentless booing by opposition fans. It started in 2013 when, during the AFL’s annual Indigenous round – which celebrates the vast contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players to the game – Goodes pointed out a girl in the crowd who had called him an “ape”.
The 13-year-old was escorted from the ground by security. She later apologised, saying she didn’t know the word had racialconnotations. Goodes forgave her, and that should have been the end of that. But it wasn’t.
Away fans taunted Goodes from then on. But it becamemore intense and vitriolic after this year’s Indigenous round on May 29th,when he celebrated a goal by performing an Aboriginal war cry and pretending to throw a spear. (The imaginary spear injured nobody.)
When an Aboriginal man is relentlessly booed for calling out a racist slur and celebrating a goal with an Aboriginal dance it seems a clearcut case of racism. But various radio shock jocks, newspapercolumnists, sport stars and fans have been falling over themselves to say Goodes has only himself to blame.
Radio presenter and former Australian rugbycoach Alan Jones said Goodes was “playing the victim”. Tabloid columnist Andrew Bolt said “it’s not because he’s Aboriginal or anything like that that he’s being booed”. Bolt – who in 2011 was found to have contravened Section 18C of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act – also lambasted what he called “the whole racism industry”.
Former Australian cricketer Shane Warne said the booing had “nothing to do with being racist”, and the supporter who last weekend told Goodes to “get back to the zoo” complained it was “political correctness gone mad” when he was thrown out of the stadium.
Tadhg Kennelly, the Kerry man who is a former Swans colleague and close friend of Goodes, sees it differently. Now working as a football commentator, Kennelly asked AFL crowds not to “give racism a voice” by booing.
Referring to Goodes being called an “ape” two years ago, Kennelly said: “Ever since that incident against Collingwood,when he really called out racism, that’s when his career really changed.
“That for me shows it is racially motivated. I think we’d be naive to put our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not racist,” said Kennelly.
In his Australia Day (January 26th, marking the start of white settlement in 1788) speech upon being announced as Australian ofthe Year, Goodes said that in the past he felt “a lot of anger, a lot of sorrow, for this day and very much the feeling of [it being] invasion day.
“But in the last five years, I’ve reallychanged my perception of what is Australia Day, of what it is to be Australian and for me, it’s about celebrating the positives, that we are still here as Indigenous people, our culture is one of the longest surviving cultures in the world, over40,000 years,” he said.
Goodes is an intelligent, caring man who stands up for himself and his culture. And some people just hate that.