Adam Goodes a class act on and off the field

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Adam Goodes is a champion on the field and off, so why is he constantly booed? (Image: Slattery Images)

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Another marvellous round of footy (unless you follow North, who in coach, Brad Scott’s words lost the un-loseable, or Melbourne, who were barely competitive) was marred with the off-field controversy of the racial slur against Adam Goodes who had produced his best form of the season in the Swans’ smashing of Collingwood.

Goodes took offence, and rightly so, to being called an ape by a teenage girl in the crowd late in the match.

With it being Indigenous Round and well into the 21st century, this remark really stuck in the champion’s craw, forcing him to leave the ground before the siren and go down to the change rooms.

He missed celebrating Sydney’s best display of the season after the game with his teammates.

The fact that the teenage girl didn’t know that calling Goodes an ape is racist proves how far we have to go in educating our children, especially those aged between 11 and 15, about how wrong it is to racially abuse someone anytime, anywhere.

There was a talkback caller to Grandstand’s AFL coverage on the weekend who is a school teacher. He was very strong strident in his view that these sorts of education programs should have been implemented many years ago. I don’t think there would be too many who would argue against him.

As Goodes said, gone are the days when the Indigenous community and players on a football field should have to tolerate racist rants.

Now the girl’s comment was a long way from a racist rant, but one word that denigrates someone because of their race is one too many.

It was great news that she had the courage to write him a letter and that Goodes accepted her apology straight away, but the fact that her mistake, as a member of a crowd supporting the highest profile team, has been and will continue to be highlighted is still a big punishment that may take her a while to overcome.

She will need plenty of support and will get it if she wants it, particularly from the League. I hope she takes it.

I don’t know where she had heard people being called an ape, but she said she didn’t know what it meant or what racism meant.

She’s still young, but must be taught about it straight away, because committing the same mistake again in the same environment is completely unforgiveable.

Goodes wants the girl to move on from this, comfortable that she will become a better person because of it. It proves what a special individual he is that in his press conference on the issue on Saturday he was genuinely worried about her after he got over the initial shock of the slur.

Collingwood, as expected, were also reeling from this. President Eddie Maguire was absolutely shattered and got on the front foot knowing that Friday’s incident could permanently harm his club and what it stands for.

Maguire has, in his own words over the years, worked hard to make the Magpies a powerful entity off the field since taking on the top job in 1999. He is very professional in all their business practices and can’t afford controversy to ruin or damage the brand of the AFL’s most popular club.

He showed superb leadership, like Goodes, in seeking out the dual Brownlow Medalist in the Swans’ rooms immediately after the game.

He now has to deal with another spectator spotted on a mobile phone picture yelling abuse from the stands at Lewis Jetta and Goodes getting free kicks because of the colour of their skin.

What is wrong with these people?

It appears that the days when barracking for your team in the crowd was about old-fashioned humourous banter between fans of the two teams doing battle are gone. The public have to be mindful of who is around them in the crowd at games, particularly children. A line has to be drawn as to what can or can’t be said.

Veteran St Kilda small forward Stephen Milne said in the media on the weekend that he has copped some vicious abuse over the years, as has his family. I know he’s the Saint all opposition supporters like to give a hard time to, but they can’t be too personal.

I hope that Friday’s incident is an isolated incident and we can continue marvel at the skill and talent of all players. We are so lucky to see them play and Adam Goodes, after 328 matches in 14 and a half seasons, is close to the top of the tree.

It was a night that should be remembered for Goodes exhibiting his outstanding talent with a performance that will live in our minds forever, instead of being remembered as the night that some people embarrassed themselves.

Dan Lonergan is one Australia's most respected and versatile commentators. In more than 16 years on ABC Grandstand he has covered AFL footy (including four Grand Finals), cricket, tennis, and three Olympic Games, including London 2012 where he commentated 16 sports.
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