Twenty Years Makes No Difference - Racism In AFL

Twenty years ago St Kilda footballers Nicky Winmar and Gilbert McAdam -- two out and out champions - were subject to some of the most vile abuse from a rabid Collingwood crowd.  And when I say vile, I mean racial.  It made a difference in more than one way, first off McAdam and Winmar ran riot on the ground, leading their side to a famous victory, McAdam got best on ground, Winmar was right behind him.  At the end of the game, STILL being abused, Winmar faced the Collingwood crowd, lifted his shirt and pointed to his skin and, in the process of doing so, created an enduring iconic image that is now the poster for racism in AFL.  He was proud to be Aboriginal.  And rightly so. 

Fast forward to last night's game.  Sydney versus Collingwood.  Adam Goodes, a star in anyone's eyes, was having a blinder of a game when and lifted his side to a famous victory, a few minutes before the end of the game, ran close to the fence as part of the play.  One of the supporters yelled out something - it was captured on camera, Goodes running past, the young lady leaning forward and screaming something.  The result: Goodes stopped in his tracks, ran back over and pointed to the young lady and insisted that something be done, all the time allowing play to continue.  It was, she was removed, Goodes left the ground, visibly shaken and upset.  To his enduring credit, Collingwood FC President Eddie McGuire, also visibly shaken and with a face that said nothing more than rage and anger that this had to happen, on this night of nights, and by someone representing his club, made his way into the Sydney rooms and apologised.

Twenty years after Nicky Winmar created an iconic pose we now have another image to wake up to, to the enduring shame of all Australians.  What makes it worse is that this weekend is the Indigenous Round, the one round where we are all supposed to celebrate the Indigenous players who have contributed to the game of AFL, names such as Michael Long, Byron Pickett, Barry Cable, Gavin Wanganeen, Polly Farmer, Robbie Muir, Maurice Rioli, Jeff Farmer, Chris Lewis, Peter Matera, Troy and Shane Bond, Andrew McLeod, Jimmy and Phil Krakoeur - the list goes on and on , and still do.  Clearly the significance of the event was wasted on at least one person and, sadly for the club, it just had to be a Collingwood supporter.  I feel for Adam Goodes this morning and I feel for Collingwood, but I feel a deeper sense of shame for the community as a whole, that such abuse STILL happens at sporting events in this country.  

After twenty years we may have learnt nothing.  For the next twenty years I hope we're not seeing repeats of this image.


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