Opinion – Racism in AFL

Systematic racism in Australian sports should not be occurring today.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has commissioned an independent panel into the allegations of racism against former Hawthorn players outlined in a report by ABC.

Allegations of bullying towards indigenous families at Hawthorn during Alastair Clarkson’s reign within the club have become known as it has been discussed widely by the Australian media.

The ABC reports Indigenous players were isolated from their families, one player said he was urged to ask his partner to terminate her pregnancy and for footballers to break up with their partners.

While the investigation into Alastair Clarkson is taking place have been delayed.  He was due to start coaching North Melbourne; due to start on November 1.

Senior coach of the Brisbane Lions, Chris Fagan has also been named in the ABC report on the treatment of Hawthorn players.

Brisbane Lions have released a statement showing their support of Fagan, describing him as a role model and mentor figure within the community and providing a culturally safe environment.

The accusations of bullying and racism within such a high-profile team and sport by coaching staff send a message to indigenous communities and potentially other minority groups that their value is lessened based on the colour of their skin.

While it is encouraging that the AFL is starting an independent investigation into the racism claims, it does beg the question of why an investigation is necessary.

Why is racism occurring in top-level AFL in 2022 and why does the culture within the sport still allow it to continue?

Why has it not been addressed in any meaningful way previously?

Why did it take a report from ABC, for the AFL to acknowledge there were issues with racism at Hawthorn?

We have seen countless indigenous players in the past speak up about racism within AFL and it is dismissed time and time again.

The dismissal leaves a bad taste in your mouth about whether the AFL Is being serious about its actions regarding racism, or whether it is a public relations stunt set out to provide the public with false hope of change.

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