AFL apologises to indigenous player Goodes, four years later

Sydney (AFP) –


The Australian Football League and its 18 teams belatedly apologised Friday to indigenous former star player Adam Goodes for failing to deal with what many believed was racially-motivated booing directed at him by crowds.

Goodes called it quits in 2015 after 18 years at the top, but it was a difficult end with frequent jeering whenever he touched the ball marring his final seasons.

Many believed the booing was racially-motivated and stemmed from him taking exception to being called an ape by a young spectator at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2013.

The AFL was slow to call it out and offer him support, but with a new documentary about his life due to premiere at the Sydney Film Festival Friday it finally offered an "unreserved apology".

"The treatment of Adam challenges us, and our right to be considered Australia's indigenous football code," the statement said.

"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."

The AFL added that its failure to call out racism and stand up for Goodes "let down all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, past and present".

"We pledge to continue to fight all forms of racism and discrimination, on and off the field."

Goodes, a former Australian of the Year, played 372 games for the Sydney Swans. He was a two-time Brownlow Medallist, a four-time All-Australian and co-captained the team from 2009 to 2012.

Australian Rules is the country's biggest spectator sport and it has worked to stamp out racism in recent years, but the sport has been marred by occasional incidents.

Earlier this year, West Coast Eagles forward Liam Ryan was called a "monkey" on social media, with the troll tracked down and suspended by Richmond, the club he supports, for two years.

In 2017, a fan accused of racially abusing indigenous player Eddie Betts was banned. The same player also had a banana thrown at him.