Goodes racially abused by young Pies fan
Swans star Adam Goodes said he was 'gutted' by racial abuse from a 13-year-old girl in last night's match against Collingwood, the game which opened the AFL's indigenous round.PT1M50S 620 349
This week we're talking about the extraordinary power that sport has to change the social fabric for the good. I have long reckoned that when the deeply admired Ian Roberts – far and away the toughest footballer I've ever seen – came out as gay, it was worth any number of anti-homophobia campaigns. From that moment, the wretched schoolyard epithet "Yer a poofter!" lost a lot of sting. When the AFL footballer Nicky Winmar was playing for St Kilda against Collingwood in 1993, and was abused by the Magpies fans, who yelled for him to "go and sniff some petrol!" and "go walkabout where you came from!" he famously lifted his jersey to point at the black skin he was so proud of, and it created Australia's most iconic black pride image of all time.
And this week, of course, we have had another iconic sporting moment that dinkum will help change Australia for the better. I refer of course to what happened in the last moments of the Swans/Collingwood match at the MCG last Friday, the Indigenous round no less, when Adam Goodes heard someone in the crowd calling him an "ape", and turned to see it was a 13-year-old girl.
What to do? Just cop it sweet? Ignore it and pretend it didn't happen? Or actually take a stand – this far and no further? Of course, we all know what happened.
Back into it: Adam Goodes during a Sydney Swans training session at the SCG. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Goodes made a stand. As the cameras rolled – in a scene we will see for years to come – he called security and the girl was ejected. “Let the word go forth from this place and this time,” that we don't do that in Australia any more. And if you do, you will be called to account.
Though completely shattered, Goodes was all class, with not an ounce of vindictiveness in him towards her. Instead he showed genuine concern that she not be vilified, but educated to understand how hurtful such an insult could be to indigenous people.
"How can that happen?" he asked. "This week is a celebration of our people and our culture. She has no idea how hurtful her comments are. It cut me deep. I couldn't even stay on the ground to celebrate the victory. The person that needs the most support is the little girl. If she wants to call me and apologise, I'll take that call and explain how much it hurt me. It's unacceptable and it hurts. Not just me but my family. It's embarrassing it still happens. There needs to be more education. I hope me taking a stand helps. People need to realise there's no place for racism in sport and society. If they want to do that, they can piss off."
Iconic moment: Adam Goodes points the finger after being called an 'ape' by a young Collingwood supporter during the AFL's Indigenous Round. Photo: Andrew White
Inspiring, no? It started a national conversation as to just where we're at when it comes to racism, and though the answer is obviously "still a long way to go", at least the stand taken by Goodes really has helped, and on Sunday he made a far more important action on the field than any mark he'll ever take or goal he'll ever kick, grand finals included.
And yet, inevitably, Goodes has also borne the brunt of a backlash, with two basic themes: firstly that he should not have made a big deal of it, and secondly – and this is the most amazing part – that to call an indigenous man an "ape" is not even racist in the first place.
I strongly disagree.
As I put it to a mate of mine, who has black hair, it's like this. Just supposing that for a good chunk of the last 200 years or so in this country, all those with black hair had been dispossessed of all their land; that they had been vilified, discriminated against, and treated almost like vermin by a lot of those with white hair, and not even allowed to vote up until 50-odd years ago. Just suppose a frequent insult hurled at those with black hair, for generations, was that the black hair made you look like a monkey, the cruellest kind of taunt of all, claiming that those with black hair aren't even human.
But now it's the 21st century and it's a far more enlightened age, as education, particularly among the young, has taught how wrong it is to discriminate against those with black hair. So enlightened, that in your chosen sport, there is even a black hair round where all those with black hair, past and present, are celebrated – a day you thought would never come.
Now, on this very day, the day where this new dawn of enlightenment is shining more brightly than ever, say you do something spectacular on the field, and then you hear, "You monkey!" So you turn, and see that it is a ... 13-year-old girl with white hair.
Seriously, under those circumstances, could you really say, "It's no big deal, it's just one of those things, and I'm sure she didn't mean to call me a monkey in a racist way?" Could you? Or could you only hope that you could muster the class and strength that Goodes has, to do what he has done, and the sheer magnanimity to point out, as he did the next day at a press conference, that the problem is not the girl herself, noting: "She's 13, she's still so innocent. I don't put any blame on her."
Bravo, Adam Goodes.