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Comment: Essendon use the power of sport as a force for good

The Age logo The Age 22/05/2014 Peter FitzSimons
Goodes, the bad and the ugly: Adam Goodes during his side's win over Essendon on Friday night. Goodes, the bad and the ugly: Adam Goodes during his side's win over Essendon on Friday night.

See, what happened is this. Late in the first quarter of Friday’s Swans v Essendon match in Melbourne, Sydney’s own Adam Goodes – no less than the Australian of the Year and the most widely and deeply admired figure in Australian sport – goes up to take a mark, just inside kicking distance.

Broadcaster Alan Jones. Broadcaster Alan Jones.

Bugger. Essendon is six goals down and at this point getting an absolute trousering, and they are clearly about to be seven goals down. The home crowd groans and engages in a little good-natured bantering – at least most of them do. But one Essendon supporter goes way too far and calls out, “F--- off, Magilla the gorilla!”

In response, another Essendon supporter turns around and says, “Who said that?”

The offender replies cockily, “I did.”

And so, what now? Accept that you have someone in your supporter base who disgraces the colours in this manner? Or do something?

The Essendon supporter did something, and made a complaint to security.

The comments were reported to the club administration.

And so, what now for the club? Accept that you have someone in your supporter base who disgraces the colours in this manner? Or do something?

They did something. They apologised to Goodes on the club’s behalf, and suspended the offender’s membership.

Bravo. Bravo, bravo. Victor, roger bravo and over and out.

But wait!

The line is still crackling! It is not over and out at all. For, despite the fact that most people have applauded the strong action by the Essendon club to actually take a stand, to say that in the 21st century we simply are not going to have people like that in our ranks, or epithets like that said by people who wear our club colours, it is simply astounding the number of people who still don’t get it.

I cite, particularly, a great column carried in The Age yesterday by sports writer Jesse Hogan, noting how Melbourne-based Swans supporter Joanne McFadyen had complained of similar racism by Essendon supporters, against Goodes, at last weekend’s match. She cited an older male sitting in the row directly behind her.

“He was calling Adam Goodes a pussy, a pig, [saying] to ‘go back to where you come from’. He was just horrid. He said things like ‘go back to where you come from’, ‘who do you think you are?’, ‘this sport is not what it used to be, it’s not our game any more’.”

Exactly. You and I are appalled. And a lot of the people who made comments beneath the article were too – but they were appalled at McFadyen and Goodes, not the ugly racism!

“Since when,” ‘’Bomber’’ wanted to know, “are venomous attacks not allowed? What’s next we sit in silence and clap good play only? Suggest Joanne goes home to watch it on the sofa with a blanket!”

Thanks, Bomber. Dunno about membership at Essendon, but there’s no doubt you’ll always be a card-carrying dickhead.

Gordie? Your thoughts, in the comments section? “You have to understand people get fed up with being called racist because of what they believe.”

Exactly! If they believe their racist epithets, it must be ok!

There was more, much more:

Duane said: “Wow, all I see is someone who couldn’t handle a bit of banter towards her club and wants her 15 minutes of fame. I don’t see any racist remarks there and it’s brushed over that he was saying similar to other players as well. Utter rubbish.”

Tommy: “Adam Goodes over a number of years has got supporters offside by his disgraceful behaviour, and If i wish to, I will yell abuse at Goodes, which he fully deserves.”

Really Tommy? Adam Goodes? Disgraceful behaviour? What, running your club ragged and booting lots of goals, you mean? I can’t recall anything else?

This ingrained variety of notably virulent and staggeringly stupid racism, is not, however, just confined to punters.

Yesterday 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones was on Sunrise – settle Petal, my hotel in the Northern Territory wasn’t picking up Today – attacking the whole idea promoted by former AFL great Andrew McLeod that the AFL should have a No Racism round.

“Certainly not. It is almost reverse apartheid.” Jones said. “It is the new game in town. If you think you’ve been racially abused, apparently you have been.”

A pause. I know what you’re thinking. Jones couldn’t possibly think that calling a black man a “gorilla” is not racist could he? Could he?

But no, Jones went on to vociferously defend the 13-year-old Collingwood supporter who last year called Goodes an “ape.”

“She had no idea,” he said, “and I had no idea, that it was a form of [racial] abuse.”

Alan, bring it in tight. If calling a black man a “gorilla” and an “ape” is not racial abuse, what the hell does it take? On previous occasions when black men have been called “black c---ts” by opponents, you’ve also defended that. I repeat, Alan, if that is not racism, what DOES it take?

You yourself, infamously, called a very tall Chinese female basketballer a “great big beast ... oh, a heifer.” If that is not racism, and misogyny – look it up, Alan – what does it take?

You want to talk “reverse apartheid”? Let’s talk real apartheid, and your strident opposition to the sanctions all those years ago, up to and including the point of discussing having the Wallabies go on a rebel tour. Mercifully, you were in the minority, the sanctions stuck and South Africa changed.

Bravo Essendon for using the power of sport to change things for the better, and for the likes of Adam Goodes for speaking up and making a stand. And yah boo sucks to recalcitrant reactionary commentators like Jones, and the commenters above, who simply don’t get it.

Check your watches, men. It is the 21st century, and your world is gone.

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