The AFL has a racism problem. That much is undeniable.
Since 2013, six players – Adam Goodes, Lance Franklin, Majak Daw, Nic Naitanui, Eddie Betts and Paddy Ryder – have been the subject of sickening abuse from fans, be it in the stands or online.
And they are only the incidents we know about.
Television campaigns to educate fans have not eradicated the problem, nor has the sustained media coverage of Goodes’ exit from football – a terrible look for the game.
That is why it is time the game took a stand. Time the game united as one.
The players have clearly had enough, and what a powerful image it would be if, at all nine AFL games this weekend, both sides shook hands with each other and then ran through the same banner at the same time.
The banner would not be adorned by logos, sponsors or mildly amusing messages, and feature just three words: UNITED AGAINST RACISM.
It would send a strong message to the neanderthals that this crap has to stop and would hopefully be viewed, in years to come, as a watershed moment for football.
Some might think players running through a joint banner is nothing more than a stunt. That once the siren went, it would be forgotten.
But don’t underestimate the power such a moment can have.
The last time AFL teams did something similar before or after a match was the round after former Adelaide coach Phil Walsh’s tragic death.
Every club participated as players and coaches, just after the final siren of their respective matches, linked arms in a circle.
No footy fan who saw it will forget it.
Of course, it would be the easy option if nothing is done this weekend.
But if that is the case, it is an opportunity lost.
The AFL did not get immediately involved in the Goodes booing saga that overshadowed the 2015 season and when they did, it had already snowballed out of control.
Even comments from Goodes and others at Sydney that they felt the booing was racially motivated, and players from opposition sides pleading for fans to refrain from getting involved, did not stop the boos.
‘How long must we put up with this?’
If you read Shaun Burgoyne’s thoughts on Tuesday, you cannot think AFL is in a healthy state.
The statement from the Hawthorn champion, chair of the AFL Players’ Indigenous Advisory Board, was dripping with pain.
“How long must we put up with this? Racial vilification has been a part of our game for too long,” he wrote.
“That both Eddie and Patrick were abused because of the colour of their skin is absolutely unacceptable and we, as the AFL Players’ Indigenous Advisory Board, have had enough.
“These are more than just words and the impact these slurs have on the player, their family, their children and their community is profound.”
Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak said “enough is enough” while Adelaide skipper Taylor Walker added “we are united with a strong message”.
United both sides were when they participated in a photo that was published on the front cover of newspapers across South Australia and Victoria on Wednesday.
This weekend, more unity is required.
Both sides running through the same ‘United Against Racism’ banner?
That would surely make front pages across the country.