‘No room for racism’ in AFL but it runs deeper than just verbal and online abuse

The Guardian Australia
Ben Abbatangelo
31 July 2022

Slogans are meaningless if the league continues to partner with entities which are detrimental to Indigenous Australians.


It has been another onerous few weeks on the “no room for racism” merry-go-round after Fremantle players Michael Walters and Michael Frederick were racially abused on social media following their club’s Naidoc Week win earlier this month. Predictably, there was another incident this weekend, with fresh allegations that a spectator racially abused Carlton defender Adam Saad on Saturday night.

The simplistic slogan partly reflects the widespread ignorance of what racism is, how it functions and the ways in which it appears. But, as a microcosm of Australian society, it is also reflective of the AFL and its clubs, who maintain an unflinching emphasis on growing the game at significant moral and ethical cost.

Racism has oxygenated the game and over the generations enabled it to grow. At this juncture, the only apparent evolution is that verbal and online abuse – the low-hanging fruit that is easily understood – is supposedly no longer tolerated.

Without a shred of self-awareness, the Dockers have stood in solidarity with Walters and Frederick under the backdrop of a long-standing partnership with Woodside, Australia’s largest independent dedicated oil and gas company.

Woodside’s proposed Burrup Hub LNG expansion is threatening Murujuga, a priceless cultural treasure on Western Australia’s Burrup Peninsula which archives more than 50,000 years of human ingenuity. Living within the lands, seas and skies, Murujuga holds the Lore, Dreaming and Songlines that have connected and sustained the region’s First Nations people since the first sunrise.

If there really was “no room for racism”, then Fremantle would not be in partnership with Woodside.

Nor would the West Coast Eagles and AFLW be in partnership with BHP, another multinational that destroys ancient Aboriginal cultural heritage and has exercised gag clauses that render Traditional Owners unable to lodge objections or to prevent their sacred sites from being damaged.

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