AFL sends clear message to ‘racist’ fans
Footy's back! And with its return, racist abuse from fans has again reared its ugly head.
The AFL's long-awaited Round 2 featured a draw between premiership chances Richmond and Collingwood, a couple of stunning upset results, and a disgusting social media post directed at Carlton goal sneak and three-time All-Australian representative Eddie Betts.
A photo of an ape accompanied the words: "I here (sic) master Eddie Betts is training the house down … #rentfree"
The Twitter user who made the post has since predictably claimed that their account was hacked.
Sadly, this is not the first time Betts has been vilified by football supporters. He's been attacked online, called an ape by a spectator at a game, and even had a banana thrown at him from over the fence.
One occasion is one too many, but Betts has continually been the target of racial slurs in a sickening pattern of fan behaviour.
Yet again, he has proved the bigger and better person, rising above this filth and using the opportunity to spread a crucial message. But it's not Betts' job to educate others on racism and what's out of bounds.
His response to the allegedly hacked party's post said plenty.
"If at any time anyone is wondering why we work so hard to bring attention to the importance of stamping out racism, this is it. If ever there was a time where our focus on this needs to continue more than ever, it's now. We each have a responsibility to ourselves and each other. To continue to listen. To learn. To educate. To ignore it is to be part of the problem, to call it out is to be part of the solution. #ItStopsWithMe #BePartOftheSolution," Betts wrote on Instagram.
Players then shared their support by using the #ItStopsWithMe hashtag while Carlton publicly backed their star and condemned the abuse.
AFL Players Association boss Paul Marsh also took to Twitter to voice his sentiments.
"First week back and our Indigenous players are already being vilified,'' he tweeted.
"This post is abhorrent and disgusting and so sad. There is no place in society for racism."
This came on a weekend where players from both teams converged in the centre square before the first bounce of all eight matches to take a knee in solidarity of the Black Lives Matter movement and the injustice faced by Indigenous Australians.
The player-driven initiative riled some with a Fremantle supporter threatening to cancel his two $900 memberships should the Dockers participate before their game on Saturday against Brisbane. To the club's credit, it replied telling the gentleman his refund would be processed.
Not only did the reply get a lot of support, but a stack of non-Fremantle fans got in touch to say they'd buy a membership due to the club's response. We like to think good outweighs bad, and in this case it did.
A St Kilda member later threatened the same move and received the same feedback from his team: "We're sorry you feel that way. You're welcome to contact the club on Monday and we'll process your refund for you."
Not everyone supported the pre-match gesture and yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. The two men who complained were even entitled to a refund.
So after months without the game, footy's back and with a stark remind there's plenty of work to do.
To the fans who act like heroes on their keyboards or beyond the boundary, here's some advice: Educate yourself. Listen. Read what Hawk Chad Wingard posts on social media, listen to Lion Allen Christensen's Addicted to the Game podcast, follow football broadcaster Shelley Ware and soak up what she has to say and the experiences she shares.
The message is crystal clear, there is no place for racism. Ever. And it won't be tolerated in the AFL.
Every racial slur, be it online or from the cheap seats of the stadium, will be called out because it stops with the athletes, the clubs, the league, its media and supporters.
Education is an individual responsibility, it's not Eddie's.
Originally published as AFL sends clear message to 'racist' fans