The AFL has admitted it can do more to stop racism as Indigenous players say they’re fed up with vilification in the sport. The league hierarchy is pledging to find ways to better educate fans after several incidents marred the Showdown in Adelaide over the weekend.
Just eight months after a Port fan threw a banana at him during a game, Crows player Eddie Betts was again subjected to racial abuse leading Port to suspend the membership of one of its fans who was evicted from Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.
Port say Indigenous ruckman Paddy Ryder was also racially vilified during the game by an Adelaide supporter, who ran away before security were alerted, while a woman wrote on social media that Betts “should go back to the zoo where him and his family belong”.
“As a club, we are sickened by these reports,” Port’s chief executive Keith Thomas said.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan promised to review what the league could do to prevent racism. “We know our game can do more,” McLachlan said. “I will continue to work … to evolve our match day policy and explore opportunities to educate our communities.”
McLachlan’s comments came after leading Indigenous player Shaun Burgoyne, a four-time premiership player who chairs the AFL Players’ Indigenous Advisory Board, said Indigenous players were saddened by ongoing racial vilification.
“This has been happening for far too long and we, as Indigenous footballers, have had enough,” Burgoyne said. “We deserve more respect than we are being shown. While it’s heartening that these incidents are being called out, there’s a lot of work to do before we can claim to be a truly inclusive game.”
Adelaide forward Betts declined to comment on Tuesday as his team-mates rallied around him. “You just don’t understand why this happens, especially to a bloke who is one of the nicest guys you will meet,” Betts’ team-mate Luke Brown said.
“It’s for him to deal with and if he feels like talking to the boys, we’re here for him. We’re here to support him throughout the whole thing and the club is doing the same thing .. we’ll back him 100%.”