Collective action needed to fight AFL racism

July 31, 2015
Adam Goodes.

There has been a wave of support for famous Sydney Swans footballer Adam Goodes in the face of the racist torrent that has been directed at him.

At the same time as people are expressing their solidarity with Goodes, right-wing commentators such as Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones are doing their best to stoke the racism, by denying that Goodes has been subjected to racist booing.

Bolt even had the gall to tell the ABC's 7.30 that Goodes could end the booing if he admitted that “it was wrong” to stand up to a 13-year-old girl who racially vilified him. The 13-year old girl had called Goodes an ape.

The racist abuse of Goodes has been especially foul, with repeated dehumanising calls describing him as an ape and calling for him to go back to the zoo.

Former Brisbane Roar and Wellington Phoenix soccer player Griffin McMaster, who works in the media, even tweeted that “Adam Goodes calls Australia Day invasion day … Deport him … If you don’t like it leave.” McMaster is so racist that he must think that anyone with a brown skin is an alien.

Some commentators have tried to deny the racism by saying that other Aboriginal football players aren’t subject to booing.

The real reason Goodes is being subjected to so much racist bullying is because he has called out racism for what it is. Now that outright racism isn’t as fashionable as it used to be, right-wing commentators try to come up with all sorts of justifications for why racism isn’t racism.

But a huge number of people don’t buy this line. The AFL Players Association put out a statement in support of Goodes, but their proposed action is for football fans to take a stand and report racist behaviour.

This is unlikely to stop the racist abuse when so many media commentators are stoking the racism. One woman who reported the racist abuse of Goodes at a recent game was so intimidated by the other fans that she was forced to leave the game at half-time.

While reporting racist abuse is important to do, it isn’t the most effective action.

More effective action would be for the AFL players to take collective action by walking off the field or sitting down on the field and refusing to play until the racist abuse stops.

Club officials have been warning that players shouldn’t take this course of action and instead are recommending less effective action such as wearing indigenous uniforms.

The AFL Players Association should act like a trade union and unite players to take collective action against racist bullying on the job.

[Sue Bolton is a Socialist Alliance councillor on the Moreland Council.]

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