- Listed: December 30, 2017 6:49 pm
- Expires: 65 days, 7 hours
SYDNEY, Aug 1 (Reuters) – Australian Rules fans, players and teams rallied in support of Adam Goodes on Saturday in the first round of action since the Aboriginal footballer was granted leave by the Sydney Swans because of the incessant booing he faced during matches.
One of the most accomplished players to have played the hugely-popular indigenous football code, Goodes was given an indeterminate leave of absence by his club after being jeered relentlessly and racially abused in Perth last weekend.
The fallout from the incident, only the latest Goodes had faced in Australian Football League (AFL) matches over the last year, triggered a debate over racism which has convulsed the media and drawn in politicians from the Prime Minister down.
On Saturday, however, it was the turn of Goodes’s team mates, fellow players and the fans to have their say.
Two newspapers used their front pages to highlight the issue with the Sydney Morning Herald printing a wraparound cover which could be used as a banner saying: “I stand with Adam”.
A monochrome portrait of Goodes was on the front page of its Melbourne sister paper The Age along with the legend “It’s black & white, it’s racism and it’s wrong”.
Supporters of Goodes say the abuse results from the 35-year-old’s outspoken advocacy for the rights of indigenous Australians, while critics say the barracking is aimed solely at the player as an individual and that he is “playing the victim”.
Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham left no one in any doubt about which camp he sat in when he set the tone for the day at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“Some find his message and actions confronting. But the issue of racism is so deep-seated nothing short of confronting can change the tide of generations of prejudice,” he told a function before the Swans match.
“Some disgraceful media commentary from people of some profile, either seeking ratings or relevance, have taken the contrary view for its sake, even if the contrary argument is hopelessly outdated and flawed.
“These people claiming it’s Adam’s fault, he needs to change his behaviours… it’s akin to blaming a victim of rape for the way they dress, walk, talk. It is totally unacceptable.”
The Swans players ran out through a banner proclaiming “Respect” in huge letters before the match against Adelaide Crows, which Goodes missed after being granted an indefinite leave of absence.
Banners around the ground expressed solidarity with Goodes with his jersey number “37” and the Aboriginal flag prominent, while a video of the highlights of Goodes’s long and successful career was played in the minute before the match got underway.
One of the few players who have won the Brownlow Medal as the AFL’s “best and fairest” player twice and twice an AFL champion with the Swans, Goodes was also honoured as an Australian of the Year in 2014.
The respect he commands within the game was on show at other matches around the country with many players wearing supportive armbands and some clubs wearing the special jersey usually reserved for the league’s “Indigenous Round”. (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)
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