AFL club Essendon have terminated the membership of a fan who racially vilified Sydney’s dual Brownlow medallist and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes during Friday night’s game at Etihad Stadium.
Essendon chief operating officer Xavier Campbell said on Tuesday the club would not tolerate racial vilification in any form.
“As a club, we do not accept appalling behaviour of this nature – no matter your race, religion or gender, football is a game of inclusion,” Campbell said in a statement.
“It is extremely disappointing incidents of this nature are still occurring.”
The incident first came to light when an Essendon supporter published a post on the club’s fan site, Bomberblitz, two hours after the Bombers’ loss to the Swans.
The Essendon member complained on the site that “I could not believe what I heard from an Essendon member” during the game.
“Late in the first quarter, Adam Goodes got his first touch when he received an easy mark just inside 50,” the supporter wrote.
“At that stage, we (were) more than 6 goals down and no one was too happy that Goodes held the ball within kicking distance. There was…the banter you would expect to hear from a footy crowd.”
Then, wrote the anonymous poster, another Essendon supporter racially abused Goodes, saying: “F*** off, Magilla the gorilla.”
“I turned around and asked loudly, “Who said that?” An adult male replied in a cocky manner, “I did.”
The shocked Essendon supporter went on: “I shook my head in disbelief. After all Our Club has done to combat racism on and off the field, this individual thought it was OK to refer to an indigenous player in such a manner. He changed his tune when I pointed him out to security.”
The poster, who was identified only as a supporter from “far north Essendon” with the handle, Balking Heads, concluded: “He (the abuser) ruined my family’s night at the footy.”
Victoria Police ejected the offending supporter from the stadium after being alerted by members of the public.
“I commend our supporters for taking a stand and having the courage to report this matter to the appropriate authorities,” said Campbell.
“If you’re going to behave in this manner, we don’t want you attending our games.
“The member in question has expressed his deep remorse for the incident and accepted full responsibility for his actions.
“His membership has been terminated and his reapplication for membership will only be considered after he has undertaken a racial vilification education program.”
Goodes, 34, was not aware of the incident until after the game which Sydney won by 50 points.
“On behalf of the entire Essendon Football Club, I want to publicly apologise to Adam Goodes for this extremely disappointing incident,” Campbell said.
“Essendon prides itself on diversity and inclusion – players and fans deserve and expect the right to enjoy sport free from any form of abuse or harassment.
“As a club, we will now work even harder to educate our members and supporters about racial vilification and cultural awareness in our game.”
Goodes was also the subject of a racial slur during a match against Collingwood in May last year, when he was called an “ape” by a 13-year-old fan.
On that occasion, he alerted officials to the girl who abused him and she was escorted from the MCG.
“I’m pretty gutted, to be honest,” said Goodes, one of the most decorated Aboriginal players in VFL/AFL history.
“The win, the first in 13 years, to be up 47 points against Collingwood, to play such a pivotal role just sort of means nothing.
“To come to the boundary line and hear a 13-year-old girl call me an ape, and it’s not the first time on a footy field that I’ve been referred to as a monkey or an ape, it was shattering.”
Neville Jetta abused
The Western Bulldogs also revealed on Tuesday that one of their supporters had racially abused Melbourne’s indigenous utility Neville Jetta during their May 12 clash at the MCG.
Although the abuse was reported, the man was not ejected from the stadium by security personnel and attempts to identify him have so far proved unsuccessful.
Western Bulldogs chairman Peter Gordon said the club apologised unreservedly to Jetta and his family.
“We are ashamed of the actions of this person who by his actions has damaged the fabric and the reputation of our club,” Gordon said in a statement.
“We have no tolerance for ignorant racial abuse and we will continue to make efforts to identify this person and to deal with him under our supporters’ code of conduct.
“It has been the club’s initiative to make this matter public and to acknowledge the wrongdoing of one of our own supporters.
“When racist abuse rears its ugly head, we will never as a club do what this person has done … disappear into anonymity. It happened. One of our own supporters did it. We are all diminished as a consequence. But we will not let it pass.
“Even though we need every supporter we can get … we don’t need supporters who behave like this.”
Jetta, 24, said he was disappointed that his family and friends had been subjected to the racial slurs.
“It’s completely unacceptable that these sorts of comments still exist in our society today,” he said in a statement.
“I was upset that my family and friends were subjected to this type of behaviour and that it still exists within the AFL, as they have done a terrific job in educating society that racial vilification is unacceptable.
“This is an opportunity to educate society.
“Just because I didn’t hear the remark firsthand, this doesn’t mean that it is any less offensive or hurtful.”
– With AAP