ABC Grandstand commentator Gerard Whateley has labelled the booing of Adam Goodes as shameful, saying he fears Goodes could be “booed into retirement”.
Goodes was booed constantly throughout the Sydney Swans’ 52-point AFL loss to the West Coast Eagles at Subiaco Oval on Sunday.
The boos prompted team-mate Lewis Jetta to recreate Goodes’ spear-throwing wardance celebration after scoring a goal, in a show of support for the former Brownlow Medallist and Australian of the Year.
Jetta said his celebration was in response to the abuse Goodes cops at stadiums around the country.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan on Monday called for the “sheep-like” booing of Goodes to stop.
Whateley says the AFL’s leadership has been abysmal on the issue, saying it is about time the league addresses the racist undertones in the booing.
“Make no mistake, this is one of the most shameful episodes in the game’s history, the way Goodes is being booed at the moment,” Whateley said on 774 ABC Melbourne.
“At its heart here there is a racist element. Not everyone booing is a racist but you are covering up the racist element.
“If you are not booing for racist grounds, stop, because it never used to be part of your day at the footy.
“Stop, and let the racists boo and then call them out, because this is disgustuing.
“We are driving Adam Goodes to the end of his career. He’ll probably finish at the end of this season and he is going to be booed into retirement.”
‘AFL has its head in the sand’ says Jonathan Brown
Brisbane Lions legend Jonathan Brown came out in support of Goodes and Jetta, saying the booing of Goodes is now “bordering on the edge of ridiculous”.
“It’s obviously got some racial connotations to it, we’ve got our head in the sand and we don’t think it does,” Brown said.
“But I think it’s more the polarising figure Adam Goodes has become since becoming Australian of the Year.
“He has promoted his cause for reconciliation, but there is a minority of the crowd that want to do it for racial reasons, others because they go for the opposite team, and others have just followed the leader.”
Whateley says anyone who argues the booing is not racist is “being deceptive in the debate”.
“Adam Goodes has never been booed in such a manner at Subiaco before – keep in mind that Swans and West Coast have the great rivalry in the competition when Goodes was a central figure to it,” Whateley said.
“Goodes was the focus of ever-intensifying booing through out the game. Lewis Jetta … clearly believes this to be racist, and it obviously has a racist [undertone].
“People are pretending it is because he slides or he plays for a free kick. The truth is it is because he has called out racism.
“He’s been the Australian of the Year, he’s challenged white Australia and he has tried to further the cause of his people.
“That is confronting in a game that pretends it has made so much ground.”