A Victoria University sport and society expert warns the AFL must stamp out racism in clubs and crowds or risk losing a coming generation of players.
Dr Matthew Klugman, researcher at VU’s renowned Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL) has offered expert advice to the mounting discussion over booing of Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes, labelling the display ‘an act of racial hatred’.
“Booing passionately is a longstanding privilege at the heart of the game. Indigenous players are also central to the game and the stories the AFL tells and sells,” Dr Klugman explained.
“But both cannot go on when so many spectators have turned the art of booing into an act of racial hatred,
“The AFL has a cultural crisis on its hands.”
Dr Klugman, co-author of award-winning book Black and Proud about the iconic photograph of former Saint Kilda player Nicky Winmar responding to race-fuelled taunts in 1993, said the AFL has become safer for Indigenous players since Winmar’s era, but the good work could be undone.
He explained that whilst Winmar’s gesture of standing up to racism garnered government support and led to the AFL introducing an anti-vilification rule to officially ban racist abuse, the current booing of Goodes has ignited similar national discussion but received little response.
“The booing we’re hearing week by week has the same tone, venom and hate that the anti-vilification rule was set up to prevent,
“The AFL cannot afford to let these acts of hate continue unabated. Issues of justice, player safety and legacy are at stake,
“The AFL has thus far failed Goodes and risks damaging the hopes of aspiring Indigenous players if the booing continues unabated.”
Dr Klugman said the AFL needs to work with clubs, Indigenous leaders and communities and footy barrackers for reconciliation that goes beyond talking about how wonderful the AFL is, to create pathways for conversation, understanding and change.
“The time has come for the AFL to once again walk the talk against racism.” ENDS
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