James Hird has taken a swipe at the AFL over its handling of the Adam Goodes booing saga.
Sydney’s dual Brownlow medallist Goodes was booed throughout 2015, his final season.
Hird told ABC NewsRadio on Sunday that the league should have sent a stronger message to those booing the indigenous icon.
“Adam had every right, and I think everyone had every right, to be very disappointed in the reaction of the crowd,” Hird said.
“But then the commentary that was around it initially by people in authority – that people are entitled to support their team.
“That’s ridiculous because there was racist tones to the booing.”
Hird described the booing of 2014 Australian of the Year Goodes as “disturbing”.
“But I thought the commentary was probably the most disappointing … from people in power,” he said.
“Because it’s unacceptable (behaviour) and it should have been talked about as unacceptable from day one.
“I think everyone in the AFL world was pretty confident that they’d done a lot to remove racism.
“For people to say … there was an element (to booing Goodes) that was not racist is wrong.”
Hird was reinstated as Bombers coach for the 2015 season but left mid-campaign due to a lack of success as the club’s anti-doping saga continued to fester.
Some 34 present and former Essendon players were found not guilty by the AFL anti-doping tribunal.
However, the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed the verdict and Essendon is still waiting on the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling.
“There’s always positives to come out of every year and I think there was a lot said about what happened to our players and a lot of fact came out,” Hird said.
“Our players were cleared of doping charges.
“That was probably the most positive thing to come out of this whole saga for us – that initially our players were cleared.”
Asked to detail his hopes for world sport in 2016, Hird noted it was “about the facts”.
“Instead of PR and manipulation it’s about the facts in everything,” he said.
“Bring them out on the table and let’s look at them, so we can move on.
“Because if we just try and brush it under the carpet and look on the field again, then we’ll always be hiding something.
“So put everything on the table and confront it and let’s move on.”