Australian Football League (AFL) star Adam Goodes says he is taking time off, as a row over racism in the game shows no sign of dying down.
Goodes, an Indigenous Australian who plays for the Swans, has been plagued by booing whilst on the field – especially during last Sunday’s clash at Perth’s Subioco Oval where a rival fan was removed for allegedly telling him to “get back to the zoo”.
The unidentified man said his ejection was an “overreaction”, and described the current uproar as “political correctness gone mad”.
“It was a flippant, off-the-cuff remark and the players would not have heard it for all the booing and banter coming from the crowd,” he said.
Critics say the jeers are because Goodes just is not liked, but supporters say the 2014 Australian of the Year is being punished for being vocal on indigenous issues.
‘Racism is alive and well’
Olympic gold medal winner and Australia’s first indigenous woman to be elected to Federal Parliament, Senator Nova Peris, said the animosity aimed at Goodes is obvious, and he is being targeted due to his stance against racism.
“Aboriginal people are a minority in this country and it is almost like when the minority is screaming out for help, when you voice your opinion, you get shouted down for it,” Senator Peris told ABC radio.
“It’s confronting racism and it is alive and well and happening everyday and I know that because I live every day as an Aboriginal person and I see it. He should not stop being a proud Aboriginal man.”
In 2013, Victoria Police interviewed a 13-year-old girl after she called Adam Goodes an “ape” during a match against the Collingwood Magpies.
“It’s not the first time on a footy field that I’ve been referred to as a ‘monkey’ or an ‘ape’, it was shattering,” Mr Goodes said at the time.
The young girl phoned Mr Goodes to apologise, but the incident sparked a media storm, with Goodes accused of singling out the young girl and dragging her into what became an apparent media circus.
The head of the AFL has urged supporters to consider the toll the booing has taken on Goodes, as the code commits to a campaign to try and stamp out racism in the sport.
“Racism has no place in our game, and while I respect that people may have different views about what is happening to Adam, it is impossible to separate this issue from the issue of race,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said.
“Our game has a proud history of tackling racism and vilification, of creating awareness of differences, and of celebrating indigenous culture.”
Indigenous war cry
On Sunday, Goodes’s Swans teammate Lewis Jetta responded to the crowd’s boos by performing an indigenous spear-throwing war cry after he scored a goal.
The war dance is seen as symbol of cultural pride, and Australia’s version of the New Zealand haka.
Jetta said it was his way of showing support for Goodes: “He’s a superstar of the game, and a superstar for the Swans. Fans need to show more respect for what he’s done for the game. All this booing stuff… needs to be thrown out the window.”
Two months ago, Goodes performed a war cry during the AFL’s Indigenous Round, and said he was inspired by a group of young AFL players, the Flying Boomerangs.
At the time he said he was “surprised” by some people’s negative responses: “I haven’t had an opportunity to show that passion, and that pride about being a warrior and representing my people and where I come from.
“For everybody else, take a chill pill, understand what I was doing. Is this the lesson we want to teach our children that when we don’t understand something we get angry and we put our back up against the wall [and say] ‘Oh that’s offensive?’ No. If it’s something we don’t understand, let’s have a conversation.”
After the attention Goodes’ war dance garnered, leaders from another football code, Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL), are pushing for Indigenous Australian players to perform a war dance at next year’s Anzac Test.
Now Indigenous leaders want all AFL players to perform the war dance during this week’s games.
“If non-Indigenous players join in, people love that – our mob love it, that there’s a mob of non-Indigenous players joining in with our dancers, we think that’s just great,” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said.