The first time I ever spoke with Adam Goodes, I could instantly tell this was not your stock standard footballer.
Every time he spoke to the media, each answer was thoughtfully and eloquently delivered, and – sometimes significantly in a non-AFL city – regardless what he may have thought of the question, nobody was ever treated with any contempt.
A pair of Brownlow Medals, two Premiership medallions, the games record holder for his proud club, all rewards for what he has done inside the white line during a remarkable career.
He showed on Friday night against Collingwood, that at the age of 33, he still has plenty of fine football left in his boots. He showed on Saturday morning what I saw that first time we spoke, that he is not your average footy player.
Many in the AFL and wider sporting world already knew the type of person Goodes is. It’s such a shame that in 2013, the rest of the Australian population would have to find out the way it did.
Those who know Goodes were not surprised when the media were informed very late on Friday night the former Swans’ skipper would be fronting the cameras the next morning. And none were really surprised either with the words he delivered.
He didn’t see it as an opportunity to stir up hate, to point fingers at racists, or as a way of focusing on any hardships of his indigenous people.
He spoke from the heart about the hurt he felt about being called an ‘ape’, the impact of such a word on an indigenous person, and how shattered he felt, especially to hear it from a 13-year-old girl.
But almost before those words could even hit Twitter, Goodes spoke about the support he hoped the young girl would receive, and about how “we’ve just got to help educate society better so it doesn’t happen again.”
The immediate general consensus was the correct one. While he may be an exceptional footballer on the park, away from it, Adam Goodes is an even more remarkable leader.
But then, once the dust settled … out they came. And as someone fortunate enough to have a rough idea what Adam Goodes the person – not just the footballer – is like, it’s just plain insulting and infuriating to hear.
For some people to suggest Goodes used the incident to climb on the soapbox to champion the indigenous cause which he feels so strongly about, for some to call him a sook, for some to say harden up, umpires get called offensive names every week, for some to say he should have just simply turned the other cheek and referred to the old: “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,”
Clearly they did hurt. Clearly they hurt North’s Majak Daw a few weeks ago when he was racially taunted. Clearly they hurt Daw, Daniel Wells, and Lindsay Thomas when they were racially abused earlier this year. Clearly they hurt Lance Franklin when it happened to him in Tasmania two years ago. Clearly it hurts every single time regardless of whether it becomes public or not.
While most of us can never know how it feels, it’s pretty clear that such taunts and abuse, that those names, are offensive and hurtful.
Will they ever stop? I’m sure most of us would like to think so, but chances are they won’t. Judging by some of the reaction to Goodes in recent days, some people just don’t care, and no amount of education about the matter will ever help. Some don’t want education, they want their football team to win and that’s all that matters.
For those, all we can do is show them racism won’t be tolerated, and hit them where it hurts by telling them, “sorry, you are not welcome at our game.”
You see one or hear one … dob them in. Film them on your phone. Report them to an official at the ground. Like Goodes did, make a stand.
Hopefully the pain Adam Goodes went through last Friday night won’t be in vain. Hopefully the awareness of the problem has been raised to such a level that those who were ignorant of the sensitivity of such taunts, now understand, and all football fans should now know, that even though security are unable to find it in those bag searches at the front gate, be very aware that racism is not allowed into our football grounds.