The issue of fans booing Adam Goodes reached new heights last week, as the 365-game veteran was roundly booed by large sections of Domain Stadium during the West Coast versus Sydney match on Sunday evening.
Lewis Jetta, a teammate and friend of Goodes, reacted to the treatment afforded to Goodes by paying homage to his infamous “war dance” celebration in Round 9 against Carlton, an incident which caused uproar and controversy in the football world.
It also showed the football world why the consistent booing of Goodes should cease immediately, and why the people who partake in the chorus of boos are as bad as the people that racially vilify him.
Jetta’s celebration, after kicking a goal early in the final term, gave a small insight into the feelings of Goodes, the Sydney Swans and other Aboriginal footballers at the abuse directed at Goodes for much of this season.
It hurts them. Personally. Therefore it should stop.
Goodes may have flirted with controversy for the latter part of his career. Ever since then-Lions coach Leigh Matthews labelled him a “protected species” at the Tribunal, after he was cleared of several controversial charges at the Match Review Panel between 2006-08, public opinion of him has rapidly declined.
Indeed, the author of this article is not a particularly big fan of Goodes the footballer. He can often be distasteful, as time and time again umpires pay free kicks that may have been ‘simulated’ (to put it mildly) by the 34 year-old. But this author will never boo Goodes and neither should you.
Like him or not, Goodes has been subjected to abuse that focuses on his racial heritage and culture. Like him or not, he has been vilified in a racial manner both from fans, and in the media.
The incident against Collingwood last year, in which Goodes directed security guards to a young girl who he heard yelling racist abuse, was clearly the tip of the iceberg. No one should be naive enough to think that it was a one-off. 15 years of it had clearly worn him thin.
The fact that Goodes called it out was controversial. It made people dislike him even more as a person. This, coupled with a natural dislike of the ‘whinger’ in Australian culture (Goodes had previously opened up about being bullied at school), shifted public opinion against the Swan. Where he had previously been labelled a great, he was now labelled with other tags.
The Carlton incident only exacerbated public opinion on him. He was a villian. A whinger who believed everyone was against him. To be honest, he’d be right. Most of the football community it seems, are.
But Goodes is proud of who he is. He made it against the odds, beat the bullies, banished his demons and went on to become one of the greats of our game. That cannot be disputed.
But for those who just don’t like him – and I could certainly find you thousands of comments online that say just that – just because he does a celebration that you, as a football fan of an opposing team, find slightly distasteful, does not give you the right to subject him to loud choruses of boos for his every possession, all 121 of them.
As Jonathan Brown said, Goodes does not deserve to be “subjected to a season-long punishment”, for an act that would have been mildly controversial from any other player, at best.
No, this article does not accuse you, the football fan, of being racist. It merely explains that by booing Goodes, you allow the real racists, the ones who preach what that young girl said last year, every week. By booing Goodes, you allow a player who is controversial mainly because of the colour of his skin and his pride in it, to be vilified.
You don’t just hurt Adam Goodes, you hurt every Aboriginal footballer who plays, or who has played our indigenous game.
You indirectly shame Aboriginal pride. Pride in heritage, in culture, and in their success.
More importantly, you allow a culture, a bigoted, and sometimes outright racist, culture to flourish in one of the most important and respected institutions in Australia. You give cover to the people who yell outrageous things at Aboriginal players, or players of any other non-Anglo/Christian background.
These people are hidden when you boo Adam Goodes.
In short, you, the football fan that boos Adam Goodes, are a racial apologist. You may not like it, nor may you be a racist person, but you are, 100 per cent, absolutely, a racial apologist.
The same goes for those that defend the booing. Some, hidden behind a computer screen, tucked away from the court of public opinion, others, in an Anglo-dominated street, allow this culture, one with racist undertones, to prevail. You too, are a racial apologist.
Mark Robinson was absolutely correct when he said that Gillion McLachlan should have labelled the booing on Sunday 26th July as racist. Even if most of it wasn’t, it became a shield for those out there that do harbour such views. As CEO, it is McLachlan’s job to call out racial apologists in our game. Not to do so was an opportunity lost.
Whether you like or hate Adam Goodes the person, or the footballer, one thing is for certain: Adam Goodes is a champion. A champion of both the game, and his peoples’ cause. This should be celebrated. 365 games and 464 goals, two Brownlows and two premierships don’t get handed out. He earned them.
So the next time you, the football fan, thinks about partaking in the shameful jeering and booing levelled at Adam Goodes, stop and think. Think about the culture you are creating and allowing to flourish.
Footy is a sport of acceptance. Of all classes, backgrounds, politics, heritage, race, religions, sexual orientation. Of equality. Don’t prevent this proud heritage from continuing. Don’t be a racial apologist.
Most importantly, stop booing Adam Goodes.