Twenty years ago, Aboriginal Australian Football League player Nicky Winmar famously responded to racist taunting by Collingwood fans by pulling up his jumper and defiantly pointing at his black skin.
“Heartbroken” Aboriginal Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes created another iconic image when he was snapped — shocked and furious — pointing at a Collingwood fan.
Goodes was responding to a 13-year-old girl abusing him as an “ape”. It was only one of two examples of racial abuse directed at Aboriginal Swans players by Collingwood fans during the game that came to light.
This revelation of the ugly reality of deep-seated and casual racism in Australian society was all the more stark because the game was the first in the AFL's “Indigenous Round”.
But even more shocking, given the timing and his position, was Collingwood President Eddie McGuire's comment on his Triple M morning show on May 29 that Goodes could be used to promote a King Kong show. McGuire offered a tearful apology, but his comment revealed just how embedded and casual racism is in this society.
Goodes, widely hailed for his heartfelt and dignified response to the racist abuse in the Collingwood game, responded with a simple tweet, “Morning Australia this is what I have woken up to” and a link to a story about McGuire's jibe.
Collingwood defender Harry O'Brien, who is of Congolese and Brazilian descent, was much more explicit in his condemnation of the man who runs the club he plays for.
O'Brien said on Fox Footy on May 29 the comments were a “slap in the face”.
O'Brien said: "People aren't taught about the struggles of other people, they're not taught about why someone would want to leave their country as a refugee or an asylum seeker.
“They're not taught about the real history of Indigenous people, they're not taught about the population of Indigenous people in our jails, or the literacy and the numeracy rate that Indigenous people have.”
O'Brien said that, “the issue for me is when it’s coming from a man as influential as Eddie, even though he's able to rectify the mistake he's made and apologise immediately, there is a multitude of people out there that can't see the connection as to why someone like myself or Adam Goodes or any other person could find that offensive — and that’s where the casual undercurrent of racism lies."
In a May 29 statement on Facebook, O'Brien said: “It doesn't matter if you are a school teacher, a doctor or even the president of my football club — I will not tolerate racism, nor should we as a society.
“I'm extremely disappointed with Eddie's comments and do not care what position he holds, I disagree with what came out his mouth this morning on radio. To me Eddie's comments are reflective of common attitudes that we as a society face.
“To me Australia is very casual with racism ... In my opinion race relations in this country is systematically a national disgrace and we have a long way to go to reach a more harmonious and empathetic society.”