The AFL and its clubs have apologised for failing to make a stronger statement of support for Adam Goodes in his battle against racism on the day a documentary that lays bare racism in the sport premieres at the Sydney Film Festival.
Ian Darling’s film The Final Quarter, edited entirely from archive footage, examines the final three seasons of Adam Goodes’ 372-game career.
The dual Brownlow medallist was the subject of a booing controversy in the aftermath of his calling out a racist comment from a young girl at a 2013 MCG match.
The booing got worse after Goodes was named 2014 Australian of the Year.
“The treatment of Adam challenges us, and our right to be considered Australia’s indigenous football code,” the AFL statement reads.
“Adam, who represents so much that is good and unique about our game, was subject to treatment that drove him from football. The game did not do enough to stand with him, and call it out.
We apologise unreservedly for our failures during this period.
“Failure to call out racism and not standing up for one of our own, let down all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, past and present.
“Aboriginal history tells us that traditional forms of football were played by Australia’s first peoples”.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players are some of the most extraordinary players that the game has seen, and football has played a part in positive social change for many people and communities.”
The AFL has been widely criticised for its response to the the booing of Goodes, which ultimately led to the Swans champion retiring in 2015 and declining a lap of honour.
“Through Adam’s story, we see the personal and institutional experience of racism,” the AFL statement reads.
“We see that Australia’s history of dispossession and disempowerment of First Nation’s people has left its mark, and that racism, on and off the field, continues to have a traumatic and damaging impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and communities.
Reconciliation Australia chief executive Karen Mundine hopes the release of the documentary is a catalyst for conversation and change.
“Adam is such a strong and resilient person,” Mundine said, describing the film as upsetting, uncomfortable and important.
“I was always amazed during that period of time, how he managed to remain true to himself but continued to be vocal. To have an opinion and voice it. ”
“I really want this film to be a new conversation starter. Not just a rehash … what do we need to change or do differently, so there is no repeat. ”
The AFL said it would continue to work with the community to foster inclusion and understanding. .
“Our game is about belonging. We want all Australians to feel they belong and that they have a stake in the game. We will not achieve this while racism and discrimination exists in our game.
“We pledge to continue to fight all forms of racism and discrimination, on and off the field.
“We will stand strongly with all in the football community who experience racism or discrimination.
“We will listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and communities to learn about the impact of racism and in doing so, we will gain a deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
“We will continue to work to ensure a safe and inclusive environment wherever our game is played.
“We are unified on this, and never want to see the mistakes of the past repeated.”