AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has apologised to retired Sydney great Adam Goodes for last year’s racism controversy.
McLachlan said in the league’s annual report that the game took too long to respond when fans were booing Goodes during matches.
The indigenous star, a two-time Brownlow Medallist, retired at the end of last season.
Significantly, he did not take part in the annual grand parade of retiring players.
Goodes had a break during the season because of the controversy.
“By the time Adam retired, he had been subject to a level of crowd booing and behaviour that none of our players should ever face,” McLachlan said.
“The debate that occurred about whether or not the booing was due to racism put further pressure on this great indigenous leader and one of our games greatest champions.
“Adam stood up to represent indigenous people and he took a stand on racism.
“For this, I believe he was subject to hostility from some in our crowds.
“As a game, we should have acted sooner and I am sorry we acted too slowly.”
‘Adam has led with courage and humility’
McLachlan said he was proud of how the community, players from all clubs and Swans fans supported Goodes during his break and when he returned to the game.
“The national conversation about racism taught me how important our role is to partner with all players to fight racism,” McLachlan said.
“Adam has led with courage and humility and I look forward to the day our game can properly celebrate the retirement of this great champion.”
As always, the AFL season launch in Melbourne on Thursday night featured a video presentation commemorating last year’s grand final.
The video focused on Hawks star Cyril Rioli and his indigenous background.
Rioli won the Norm Smith Medal for best afield in the grand final as the Hawks beat West Coast for their third straight premiership.