Two-time Brownlow Medallist and 2014 Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, has taken a leave of absence from his Sydney Swans teammates after seemingly reaching the brink of his frustration over perpetual booing and abuse he has received since an incident of racism in 2013. During the Indigenous round between Collingwood Magpies and Sydney Swans, Goodes highlighted a 13 year old girl to security on national TV for allegedly calling him an “ape.” The uproar over the incident has spanned since the incident and culminated in Goodes having had enough and requesting a leave from the Swans who granted his request.
Goodes has received little sympathy from some public figures like radio personality Alan Jones who claims that the fact that the other 70 indigenous players don’t get booed indicates that the actions are not a matter of racism. West Coast Eagles fans recently were reported to have told Goodes to “go back to the zoo.”
The matter has divided many fans, and while many agree that racism is not an acceptable behaviour, the reaction of many opposing supporters continually booing Goodes every time he touches the ball is an indicator that the matter is not yet resolved. The departure of Goodes has prompted some very healthy discussion about how acceptable it is to stand up for oneself in a sporting arena.
In response to the heckling he has received, Goodes celebrated a goal with an Aboriginal war cry celebration which once again brought the debate into the mainstream media. Journalist Waleed Aly made these profound comments on ABC’s Insiders following the incident
“It’s about the fact that Australia is generally a very tolerant society until its minorities demonstrate that they don’t know their place. And at that moment, the minute someone in a minority position acts as though they’re not a mere supplicant, then we lose our minds. And we say, ‘No, no, you’ve got to get back in your box here’”
“What happens is the minute an Indigenous man stands up and is something other than compliant, the backlash is huge and it is them who are creating division and destroying our culture. And that is ultimately what we boo. We boo our discomfort.”
The issue branches much deeper than Adam Goodes and the AFL but Goodes has become the advocate for bringing the issue of racism in Australia and Sport into prominence.
One can only imagine the plethora of obscene and racist comments that are hurled day to day and week to week in amateur weekend sport. Many of which will never go punished enabling the offenders to continually engage in such vile behaviour. Even the act of watching live professional sport from the crowd or a bar will result in a multitude of unacceptable remarks being made at athletes. Why is it that the sporting arena provides an outlet for racism that would not be condoned in any other public setting? Offensive comments are not merely limited to racism, with the perception of being “one of thousands” allowing people to engage in mob like behaviours which may or may not reflect that individual’s true feelings.
Adam Goodes certainly has raised a real issue in Australian culture as well as the broader sporting culture that we as a society will have to inevitably address. Often, growth is triggered by difficult scenarios and with public attention on the matter, we can only hope that the general public will allow for individual and cultural growth to address and minimise the negative impact for others following in Adam Goodes’ footsteps.