AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan apologises for not acting sooner over Adam Goodes crowd booing, racism saga

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Adam Goodes
Aboriginal activist and Australian Rules Football legend Adam Goodes kicks a ball during a team training session at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Australia, August 4, 2015 REUTERS/David Gray

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has apologised to former Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes for not acting sooner to stop the racist taunts and boos Goodes was subjected to during multiple games last year.  

Writing in the AFL’s 2015 Annual Report, McLachlan joined Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick in commenting on the Adam Goodes racism saga, where the Indigenous player was the subject of crowd booing and racist remarks in the last year of his career, which led to him staying out of the 2015 Grand Final day parade of champions at the MCG.

“Adam stood up to represent Indigenous people and he took a stand on racism, and for this I believe he was subject to hostility from some in our crowds,” McLachlan wrote.

“As a game, we should have acted sooner and I am sorry we acted too slowly”.

“The national conversation about racism taught me how important our role is to partner with all players to fight racism.”

The AFL legend, who has played 372 games for Sydney and is currently the co-chair of the ‘Go Foundation’ which aims at providing Indigenous children with scholarships to quality schools, was left “shattered” after a racial slur made by a 13-year-old girl during a 2013 game against Collingwood received much media attention. Goodes had come forward at a press conference after the game, saying that “racism has a face and last night it was a thirteen year old girl”. His comments led to multiple instances of crowds booing him while he played, and received a lot of public hostility.

In his CEO report, Gillon praises Goodes as one of the most decorated players the AFL has ever seen.

“He retired as a two-time premiership player, two-time winner of the Brownlow Medal, three-time best and fairest, four-time All-Australian, club captain from 2009-12, won the Rising Star Award in 1999 and was named in the Indigenous Team of the Century. He also has the distinction of being the only Australian footballer to have been named as Australian of the Year, an honour he received in 2014”.

Gillon also acknowledged that the debate that followed “about whether or not the booing was due to racism put further pressure on this great Indigenous leader and one of our game’s greatest champions”.

“I am proud of the way the community, players from every club and supporters of the Sydney Swans made their support for Adam so public during his time away from the game, and on his return to play against Geelong,” he added.

AFL Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick also weighed in on the controversy in his report, saying:

“Adam is, and will always be, a great champion of the AFL, and for racism to blight his final season is a great shame for our game”.