AFL 'not safe' for Indigenous players - retiring star Betts

Melbourne (AFP) –


Retiring Australian Rules star Eddie Betts says the sport is not a safe workplace for Indigenous athletes and has vowed to keep fighting to combat racist behaviour.

The 34-year-old Carlton forward, regarded as one of the all-time greats of Australia's most popular spectator sport, will play his 350th and last game this weekend.

"I don't feel like it is safe at the moment, I honestly don't," Betts, who once had a banana thrown at him by a spectator and has been depicted as a monkey by trolls on social media, said in the Melbourne Herald Sun on Wednesday.

"I feel like there is still a lot of racism ... this year there has been a lot of racism and it has been draining and it has been tiring.

"Every year we see myself and a lot of the Aboriginal boys standing up and trying to call it out, trying to make a stand.

"Speaking to (AFL chief executive) Gill (McLachlan) recently, (I said) 'we have got to be stronger'. We have got to somehow catch these people and make them accountable for what they say online or over the fence."

He said a recent conversation with Adam Goodes -- the AFL's most decorated Indigenous footballer who quit after a relentless booing campaign against him -- reminded him of the need to keep calling out obnoxious behaviour.

Betts said Goodes' withdrawal from the game in 2015 was a catalyst for him becoming more vocal about the racist comments he and other players experienced.

"Watching what Adam went through and what he received wasn't nice to see," he said.

"He gave me that voice, strength and courage to stand up and try to stamp out racism in Australia, to call it out when I see it."

Goodes retired after what many believed was racially motivated booing that stemmed from him taking exception to being called an "ape" by a young spectator two years earlier.

The AFL formally apologised for not doing more to defend him, but it took them four years to do so.

The sport, similar to Ireland's Gaelic football, first began proactively tackling issues including racism in the 1990s.

That included adopting a ground-breaking policy that made it an offence for players or officials to insult someone due to their race, religion, ethnicity, colour, nationality or background.

But underlying problems persist.

Only this month, Adelaide Crows player Taylor Walker was banned for six games and fined Aus$20,000 (US$14,500) for a racist slur against an Aboriginal player.