AFL 3 years ago

The booing has to stop

  • The booing has to stop
I've been around the sporting world since I was a child. I've been around sport as a spectator, official, player and journalist for 15 years.

And never in my time have I seen a player attacked and derided so much for standing up for what he believes in.

The booing of Sydney Swans legend and former Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes is despicable. It has no logical basis.

Goodes is a proud, Indigenous man who is confronting racism head on and AFL crowds don't know how to handle it.

I've heard people say they're booing him because it upsets him. Now that is a cop out. I've never seen a player who has been put off by booing, booed before a ball has been kicked.

Others say it happens elsewhere so it's fine if it happens here. That is an incredibly narrow-sighted view. So it happens in other sports, who cares? It shouldn't be happening here.

Another reason being spouted far and wide is that Goodes rubs people the wrong way, that he's a sook. 

Firstly, I'd ask you what makes him a sook? Is it because he pointed out a 13 year old girl who was racially abusing him, is it because he used his Australian of the Year speech to point out racism is still prevalent in this country?

Those things don't make him a sook. He's confronting racism in a way Australians haven't seen before and it's making them uncomfortable.

Their response is symptomatic of a bullying mentality. They think that by attacking the messenger the inconvenient truth that they are racist will be covered up.

Perhaps the most pathetic excuse I've heard is that "he's a good player, we're trying to put him off". Are you serious? I don't see you booing Chris Judd before the ball has been bounced, I don't see you booing Gary Ablett Jnr every time he touches the ball.

Why is Goodes the target?

This issue has been bubbling away for most of this season and boiled over in Indigenous round when an Indigenous man performed an Indigenous dance. Ignorant fans claimed they were threatened by Goodes throwing an imaginary boomerang. 

Fairfax columnist Waleed Aly highlighted Australia's underlying issue with our minority groups stepping outside the perceived social norms and confronting issues head on.

"It's not as simple as it being about race, it's about something else. It's about the fact that Australia is generally a very tolerant society until its minorities demonstrate that they don't know their place. And at that moment, the minute someone in a minority position acts as though they're not a mere supplicant, then we lose our minds. And we say, 'No, no, you've got to get back in your box here'."

Australian sport and, at times, society has an issue in moving on from history. Just because booing has been accepted before, doesn't mean it should be accepted now.

In my experience, if I boo a player, and I do that rarely, it's usually due to an unsavoury act. An act I see as dirty or that is not in the spirit of the sport.

I don't boo Johnathan Thurston when he clicks the Cowboys into gear and chases down a deficit. I sat in Pirtek Stadium this season when Thurston marshalled his side to chase down a 24 point deficit against Parramatta.

For me it was heartbreaking, the Eels surrendered a 24 point lead in 11 minutes due to Thurston. But I wasn't booing him, if anything I respected him more and I sat there in genuine bewilderment at his ability.

This, right now, is a defining moment, not just in Australian sporting history, but in Australian history in general.

The response must come from Goodes' fellow athletes. NRL players, Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis have already said they'll perform a war cry this round in support of Goodes.

The athletes are the ones who can well and truly change the face of Australian sport. If they stand up and tell the crowds they will no longer accept it, the crowds will have to change, and those who can't alter their views will be left in the past.

It is also up to those in the crowd who do not agree with the booing to stand up and do something about it. To take a stand and say that these people do not represent what I stand for.

Former Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison once said, "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept."

So, do you accept what is happening, or are you prepared to stand against it?
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