SYDNEY (Reuters) - Aboriginal players from the Australian Football League (AFL) have issued an open letter to fans of the code demanding an end to racist abuse after two of their number were insulted over the weekend.
Port Adelaide Power’s Paddy Ryder and Eddie Betts of the Adelaide Crows, both indigenous Australians, were subjected to racial abuse from the crowd during the top flight match at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.
The AFL Players’ Indigenous Advisory Board, which represents Aboriginals playing in Australia’s richest and best-attended professional league, responded on Tuesday with a plea for an end to the abuse.
”To the football community,“ read the letter. ”How long must we put up with this?
“Racial vilification has been a part of our game for too long. That both Eddie and Patrick were abused because of the colour of their skin is absolutely unacceptable and we... have had enough.”
The letter continued that the abuse had an impact not only on the players but on their families and the wider indigenous community.
“Despite the amazing work done in the community by our brothers and sisters, they continue to experience this disgraceful treatment,” it said.
“There’s no room in our game for any form of vilification, whether it’s based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Anyone who thinks that this is an acceptable way to act is no football fan.”
The players said the code risked missing out on talented indigenous athletes of the future if the vilification continued.
“Unless the industry, and society for that matter, can show greater respect for diversity then we risk losing the next Adam Goodes, Andrew McLeod, Buddy Franklin or Cyril Rioli,” it said.
Goodes, named an Australian Of The Year in 2014 and twice winner of the sport’s Brownlow Medal as the best and fairest player, has now retired but was at the centre of the last race storm to hit the game.
He was given a leave of absence by his Sydney Swans club in 2015 after being jeered relentlessly and racially abused by rival supporters during matches, incidents which embarrassed the sport and triggered a nationwide debate over racism.
The AFL has worked hard to stamp out racism on the field and celebrates the contribution of Aboriginal players with an ‘Indigenous Round’ of matches each season.
The incidents of racial abuse directed at Ryder and Betts over the weekend have been condemned by the AFL, both teams and the players’ union.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O'Brien