Winmar and Goodes: Their Gifts to the Game

Filed in Archive, Blog by on October 26, 2015 0 Comments

Winmar and Goodes

Nicky Winmar’s stand against racism in 1993 led to the AFL publicly drawing the line at on-field racial abuse.

Sadly, there was a loud minority of public protest at the time about the support the AFL gave Winmar. It was most obvious on talkback radio. The indignant logic of too many callers was simple-minded and circular: “I had to put up with being called ‘insert derogatory racial tag’ while growing up, so Winmar should too.” In other words, past wrongs justified future wrongs.

Fortunately, the players generally responded positively to the AFL’s stand. Indigenous participation in Australian Football has since increased and the game is richer for it.

As some crowd elements began to boo Indigenous champion Adam Goodes during 2015, many fans of the game, like me, wondered why.

Online I found a number of images with captions like “Adam Goodes – bullies 13-year-old girl, gets Australian of the Year.” It was easy to imagine their misinformed logic beginning: “I’m not racist but …”

On Saturday 1 August, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald used their front pages to call for an end to booing Goodes every time he touched the football. The newspapers’ message was unequivocal: “It’s racist and it’s wrong.”

As support for Adam Goodes consequently became more vocal and visible among AFL crowds, I noticed how quickly almost all the anti-Goodes images disappeared from online searches. The majority of fans had found their voice; the online snipers were conspicuously marginalised.

When Adam Goodes retired at season’s end in September, he had extended the line that Winmar had started. No longer is it excusable for AFL crowds to racially abuse the players. A priceless gift to any true fan of the game.

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