Since Friday night’s game against Carlton, champion Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes has been at the centre of an intense debate surrounding his choice to perform an Indigenous war dance in celebration of a goal.
The display, which came at the beginning of the AFL‘s Indigenous Round, was adopted from the Under 16 Flying Boomerangs national side and has provoked intense debate about its presence within a football game, drawing to light the consistent and baffling booing that Goodes attracts from supporters.
Just about every media commentator under the sun has had their say on the matter. The Fox Footy panel on Friday night included four white men with no experience of cultural oppression suggesting that the dance in and of itself was “violent,” “threatening,” “an act of war,” and had no place on a football field. Eddie McGuire in particular was highly critical of the incident during half time. Though by the end of the game his views had softened. And by Saturday afternoon he was outright denying that he’d been critical of it all in the first place. Always deny, never atone.
Like a moth to a flame, Andrew Bolt threw his considerably privileged hat into the ring this morning, posting a long diatribe that portrays Goodes as seeking to be a “victim” in all of this – an article we read so you didn’t have to. Some exceptionally choice quotes are contained within it.
“Goodes told non-Aboriginal journalists his Aboriginal war dance at Friday’s AFL game was “a battle cry at you guys saying this is who I am … a warrior and representing my people”.
Excuse me, Adam: who are “you guys”?
White guys, like those journalists? White guys like those Carlton fans?”
“The Hawks once banned then-goal sneak Mark Williams from celebrating by firing imaginary shots at a ball going through the goals, so why is this symbolic threatening of fans with a spearing acceptable? Or is this the truth of “reconciliation” made visible — the division of Australia into “races”, each with its “warriors” waving imaginary weapons?
What next? Players miming throat-slitting at rival fans?”
And then this absolute barnburner of a sentence.
“Yet Goodes was rewarded for his disproportionate reaction [to calling out a 13-year old fan who called him an “ape”] by being named Australian of the Year, a position he used to trash the country that had awarded him this great honour.”
But as Bolt and so, so many others like him have pondered “if the booers are racists, then why is Cyril Rioli cheered, and by the same Hawthorn crowd that gave Goodes a hard time a week ago?” it was Waleed Aly who managed to provide an eloquent and succinct response to the issue.
Aly appeared on the ABC’s Offsiders program yesterday, and promptly caused tinnitus en masse from the ringing of the nail being hit on the head.
Like it or not, booing and the physical manifestation of negativity is, quite universally, a reaction of discomfort. The New Zealand All Blacks have their famous Haka – it too an indigenous dance of war – and it is a revered and protected cultural rite admired globally. Why does it differ from that of Goodes display? Because Maori cultural pacificity is not as fundamentally engrained in the New Zealand psyche as Indigenous pacificity is in the Australian.
Adam Goodes provokes a deep rooted discomfort within our cultural comfort zones. This horrendous backlash that’s ensued follows a long held national preference to maintain a broken status quo, rather than rise to any challenge of our own shortcomings.
Photo: Cameron Spencer via Getty Images.