Wednesday, July 29, 2015

AFL Statements: Rhetoric and Reality

There is a problem at the moment in the AFL in which an indigenous player, Adam Goodes, is being unrelentingly booed, which has become a national news story. The situation is more complex than "football fans are racist", but it is becoming rapidly less complex as it continues. The AFL issued a statement in support of Goodes imploring fans to stop and, as usual, explaining how seriously they take issues of racial vilification.

In 2013, a fan of the Collingwood AFL team yelled racist abuse at Adam Goodes (calling him an ape), and was escorted from the ground, something that happens all too often in AFL games. The AFL regards punishing the fan in these situations sufficient, and no consequences are delivered to the club. A few days later the president of Collingwood, on his morning radio show, suggested that Goodes could be used to do publicity for an upcoming King Kong stage show. Yes, really. The AFL's response was to condemn his comments, and then nothing. The AFL CEO's reasoning? McGuire had been punished enough by the response of the general public, and he just felt awful about it.

Compare and contrast. In 2014 in the NBA a club owner got embroiled in a controversy after several racist statements in a conversation with his girlfriend were recorded and released. The NBA forced him to sell his franchise, and issued a lifetime ban. Later the same year, CSKA Moscow were forced by UEFA to play a Champions League game in an empty stadium following racist behaviour from their fans.

The AFL made their statement on the treatment of Adam Goodes in 2013. They set the bar for acceptable behaviour, and now fans are living up to it.