Image for Booing Adam Goodes – racism is in the stitching of the AFL

*Pic: of Adam Goodes

Adam Goodes was again booed by Australian football fans at the weekend. While some misguided commentators have written this behaviour off as not being racially motivated, others are convinced that such abuse is a result of the Sydney Swans player’s outspoken views on Aboriginal issues.

I would argue that racist behaviour and assumptions are woven into the fabric of Australian football, alongside historical assumptions about what constitutes “Australianness”.

In 2005, Goodes was announced as a member of the Indigenous Team of the Century, a selection of Indigenous Australians that have proudly represented Australian Football League (AFL) teams. He is a two-time Brownlow Medalist (awarded to the Fairest and Best player of the season), a dual AFL premiership winner and was Australian of the Year in 2014. Only eight players have played more career AFL games than Goodes’ current tally of 365. This is someone who should be regarded as one of the AFL’s greatest players.

In recent months, some supporters have booed Goodes whenever he touches a ball. As a direct result of this abuse, a fatigued Goodes is taking time away from the sport and may not play in the Swans’ upcoming fixtures.

While Swans’ chairman Andrew Pridham has labelled the booing of Goodes as “100% racist”, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has so far avoided describing the “sheep-like behaviour” of booing fans as racism.

A history of abuse

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Stan Grant, Guardian: Stan Grant: I can tell you how Adam Goodes feels. Every Indigenous person has felt it … Here’s what I can do. I can tell you what it is like for us. I can tell you what Adam must be feeling, because I’ve felt it. Because every Indigenous person I know has felt it. It may not be what you want to hear. Australians are proud of their tolerance yet can be perplexed when challenged on race, their response often defensive. I may be overly sensitive. I may see insult where none is intended. Maybe my position of relative success and privilege today should have healed deep scars of racism and the pain of growing up Indigenous in Australia. The same could be said of Adam. And perhaps that is right. But this is how Australia makes us feel. Estranged in the land of our ancestors, marooned by the tides of history on the fringes of one of the richest and demonstrably most peaceful, secure and cohesive nations on earth. The “wealth for toil” we praise in our anthem has remained out of our reach. Our position at the bottom of every socio-economic indicator tragically belies the Australian economic miracle …

• T Keane in Comments: Look we Australians like our blacks tame, so when somebody like Adam Goodes gets a bit uppity then, well, we need to put him back in his place don’t we? No matter how many contortions people try (‘I’m not racist but ...’) this is the underlying subtext.  The indefensible cannot be defended. It’s shameful. Shame on the AFL, shame on those white male media spokesmen, shame on Australia.

• Chris Harries in Comments: Very few people go around displaying overt racist or sexist or anti gay behaviours. Oppression of minorities and bigotry is more typically carried out subtly through language and attitude, by using stereotyped labels, by damaging self esteem, by putting down people in all manner of ways whilst pretending that it’s nothing to do with their race or gender or they way they choose to dress. That’s why it’s so hard to stamp out bigoted attitudes. It’s easy for any person to persuade themselves that they are not racist or sexist or anti cyclist…. or whatever…. whilst they’re being exactly that. People who take a stand against prejudice – like Rodney Croome, Michael Mansell, Germaine Greer, Adam Goodes – tend to annoy a lot of people at the time because their role is to put up a mirror to ourselves, and we may not like it, but in the long run those people end up being catalysts for changes that have to happen. Had they lived a century ago, those who oppose same-sex marriage today would have been the voices that tried to prevent women getting the vote. Maybe some are probably still annoyed about that!