The AFL and all 18 AFL clubs have jointly issued a thorough, deeply remorseful, and absolutely unprecedented apology to Adam Goodes for not standing with the former Swans champion enough during the tumultuous final years of his career.
The statement on behalf of the entire league and every player and official therein apologises “unreservedly for our failures” for failing to back Goodes in during the unrepentant, racially-motivated booing saga that haunted his final playing days.
The statement comes just prior to two documentaries on Goodes being released – The Final Quarter and the Stan Grant-penned The Australian Dream – which reportedly do not look favourably on the league or league officials, to put it very lightly.
The statement is, and we cannot stress this enough, utterly extraordinary. It is a staggering admission of failure in regards to a First Nations sportsperson, and stands as something that was, sadly, unthought of before today.
It acknowledges Indigenous involvement in the conception of the game, acknowledges the roots of the traditional game of Marngrook in the game’s DNA, and asserts that “the game did not do enough to stand with [Goodes] and call [racism] out.”
The full statement, which is a truly extraordinary read, is below:
The Australian Football League and the 18 AFL Clubs have come together to make this statement on behalf of our members, administrators, staff and players.
The history of the game says that Australian Rules has officially been played for 161 years.
Yet, for many years before, Aboriginal history tells us that traditional forms of football were played by Australia’s first peoples all over Australia, most notably in the form of Marngrook in the Western Districts of Victoria. It is Australia’s only Indigenous football game – a game born from the ancient traditions of our country. It is a game that is proudly Australian.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players are some of the most extraordinary players that the game has seen, and football has played a part in positive social change for many people and communities.
2019 will see the release of two important films about football, racism and discrimination. The films focus on the treatment of Adam Goodes, one of the game’s greatest champions, and tell the story of Australia’s history with the First Peoples of this land.
Through Adam’s story, we see the personal and institutional experience of racism. We see that Australia’s history of dispossession and disempowerment of First Nation’s people has left its mark, and that racism, on and off the field, continues to have a traumatic and damaging impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and communities.
The treatment of Adam challenges us, and our right to be considered Australia’s indigenous football code. Adam, who represents so much that is good and unique about our game, was subject to treatment that drove him from football. The game did not do enough to stand with him and call it out.
We apologise unreservedly for our failures during this period.
Failure to call out racism and not standing up for one of our own let down all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, past and present.
Our game is about belonging. We want all Australians to feel they belong and that they have a stake in the game. We will not achieve this while racism and discrimination exists in our game.
We pledge to continue to fight all forms of racism and discrimination, on and off the field.
We will stand strongly with all in the football community who experience racism or discrimination.
We will listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and communities to learn about the impact of racism and in doing so, we will gain a deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
We will continue to work to ensure a safe and inclusive environment wherever our game is played.
And we urge all Australians, and in particular our supporters and fans, to see these films with open hearts and minds and learn from the experience and leadership of Adam Goodes, just as we are.
We are unified on this, and never want to see the mistakes of the past repeated.
The Final Quarter has its world premiere tonight at the Sydney Film Festival, meanwhile The Australian Dream is scheduled to premiere in August at the Melbourne International Film Festival.Source: AFL.com.au
Image: Getty Images / Ryan Pierse