What has Adam Goodes done wrong to become the target of incessant booing at AFL games, particularly in Melbourne?
In games against Essendon, Richmond, Hawthorn, and then on Sunday afternoon against the Western Bulldogs, each time the Sydney Swans dual Brownlow Medallist and premiership champion, and current Australian of the Year went near the ball, lined up for a shot at goal, touched the ball, or went near the fence, he was greeted with a chorus of jeers and boos.
And then in the wash up of Sunday afternoons clash against the Bulldogs, it turns out a Bulldogs supporter was ejected from the game for allegedly hurling racial insults at Goodes and Lance Franklin.
In the game against Essendon in May, Goodes was also the target of racial abuse from a Bombers supporter.
The AFL, as far as NSW and Queensland is concerned, is increasingly battling an image problem. The racial attacks on its two leading figures in Sydney is only adding to it.
The Swans have attracted a lot of attention over the last 18 months, especially since the club signed Kurt Tippett on the back of their unexpected premiership in 2012.
It has gotten worse since Franklin arrived at the Harbour City.
It’s old news, but ever since, the Swans have been the target of consistent sniping and attacks by Victorian club presidents on a range of topics, swinging from accusations of cheating with the COLA, and unfair advantages over the academies.
Thrown into this mix is the incident which will haunt the game for a long time.
During Indigenous Round last season, in the clash against Collingwood, Adam Goodes pointed out to a spectator in the crowd who had hurled a racial insult at him over the fence. Unbeknownst to Goodes at the time, the spectator turned out to be a 13-year-old girl who called him an “ape.”
And while Collingwood president Eddie McGuire immediately tracked down the Swans champion to apologise to him, the Magpies boss went on to make the gaffe of all gaffes with his brain snap joke about Goodes and King Kong. It was most awkward irony for the AFL that particular weekend.
In the lead up there had been reminiscing about that day at Victoria Park against the Magpies in 1993, when St Kilda champion Nicky Winmar lifted his jumper and pointed to his skin, after he and teammate Gilbert McAdams had been the subject of torrid racial abuse.
It was the 20th anniversary of the infamous incident and the AFL pumped up for how far the game had come since then.
While the game has come a long way since some ugly racial incidents have marred the game, such as Collingwood’s Damian Monkhorst racially vilifying Bombers champ Michael Long during the 1995 Anzac Day clash, and Dermott Brereton’s infamous targeting of West Coast Eagles star Chris Lewis during the 1991 AFL Grand Final, clearly, there is still a way to go.
The AFL may pride itself on its rich history with Indigenous players and being the game that cherishes, celebrates, and honours them, but so does the NRL.
Some of the NRL’s greatest players have been Indigenous. Two of the biggest names currently in the game are also Indigenous.
Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston both have bigger profiles in Brisbane and Sydney than the names of Goodes or Franklin. The South Sydney Rabbitohs sit smack bang in the middle of Redfern.
While the NRL is not immune to spectators booing players, or poor spectator behaviour, booing of Thurston and Inglis just doesn’t happen.
When the two biggest names for the AFL in Sydney happen to be Lance Franklin and Adam Goodes, both Indigenous players, and they are on the receiving end of racial abuse in AFL games interstate, what does it say about the state of the game as far as its fan and spectator behaviour is concerned?
AFL is known for its passionate fans, but there is a fine line between passionately supporting your team at a game, and hurling abuse at an opposition player, racial, or not.
If the reason Goodes is being booed is because of the incident last season, it shows we are learning nothing.
There is a belief that Goodes humiliated the girl last year, because at 13, she didn’t know better. But if the same girl was caught shoplifting, is it going to be said she didn’t know any better or that stealing was wrong? She was certainly old enough to know right from wrong, and since when has it become acceptable to yell abuse at an opposition player over the fence anyway?
If these have become excuses for supporters to turn up and boo Goodes, then there is something seriously wrong.
If the recent hysteria attached to the Swans has become an excuse for booing Goodes and Franklin, something is seriously wrong.
The booing not only looks and sounds ridiculous, it wreaks of ignorance, intolerance, and indifference.