Aug 1, 2015

I Stand With Adam

I'm not a joiner, usually. I wholeheartedly support marriage equality, but I didn't rainbow my Facebook profile. There were enough of those that mine wasn't needed - and that's usually the way I feel about protests and public acts of support once they get a big enough following.

But I actually feel quite strongly about this one, and I do agree with Fairfax that this is an important turning point for our country. These days where anything public is drawn out and carried on to exhausting length thanks to social media, there is also the need to manage and direct the momentum to make sure it is carried in the right direction.

So I stand with Adam.

The attacks on Goodes in recent times have reached such a level that they are reflecting poorly on our entire nation. We all have a duty to help end this travesty – and prevent repeats – by having the courage and decency to call out such behaviour as a racist disgrace. It certainly has no place in a nation that would pride itself on being diverse, multicultural and, above all, fair. 

We know now, these days, the damage to a person's psyche and future that bullying causes. We know the damage it is causing Adam Goodes. No reasonable person, surely, can still argue that constant, sustained booing doesn't do any harm. We might have thought that once. We might have believed that sportspeople have to accept this and that they tune it out. We know differently now.

I know that many of the people booing Adam Goodes aren't racist. And I know that not everyone likes Adam Goodes, and public figures can be annoying in all sorts of ways. But the level of ugliness and vitriol flying Adam Goodes' way daily is beyond anything that white players ever get, and is beyond anything reasonable.

Adam Goodes is a bloody legend.  He's a great footballer obviously, having won TWO Brownlow medals and kicked 454 goals; he is loyal to his club, and he's racked up an impressive amount of community work especially for young indigenous sports. He's been a big name in football and in his community for more than 20 years.

So why the hatred?

What's he done wrong?

Staging for free kicks? I'm not a footy person so can't speak to this, but others have - like here (the Herald Sun!), and here and here.

Aboriginal war dances? If so, so what? Celebrating your own culture is not the same as attacking others.

Refusing to celebrate Australia Day? It's time Australians realised that the majority of indigenous Australians feel this way, and this is not news, nor is it surprising.

Using his Australian of the Year award to call for action on racism? An absolutely appropriate use of the platform I'd say.

'Bullying' a 13-year old? Hardly. Firstly, the 13-year-old had to learn that she couldn't racially vilify. She did learn that, justifiably. The humiliation and horror she felt after this incident must have been awful, but she also had plenty of love and support around her, and the public aspect was over fairly quickly. The media didn't drag it on, and Adam Goodes himself, once he knew the girl's age and accepted that she didn't know she was being racist, was reasonable. He didn't let it go - why should he? But he was not cruel, and he talked to her to help her understand.

When she called to apologise the next day, he got the word out:

From the beginning, he emphasised the impact of her slur on him (it was 'devastating' and he was 'gutted').  Which was necessary for Australia to hear.

Check out his words after the event:

Goodes said the fan's offensive remarks had shocked him."I was just like, really? Wow could that happen?""I don't know if it's the lowest point in my career, but personally I've never been more hurt."It felt like I was in high school again being bullied. I don’t think I’ve ever been more hurt by someone calling me a name. Not just by what was said, by who it came from."

I can't know what racism feels like. I have an idea, but I can never feel the kick in the guts that Adam Goodes feels, when despite being successful, loved and respected in the community, a single racist epithet - and from a child, meaning she has learned it from the community around her - can bring it all down.

Australians overall are fair and inclusive. Most Australians now have grown up in a multicultural environment and are not overtly racist. In my years travelling I loved seeing Australians overseas interacting with people.  Australians treat everyone the same in a relaxed natural way that stood out for me observing it.

But there is an unmissable ugliness to the vitriol being pumped Adam Goodes' way, and in the anger with which people are defending their treatment of him. I understand people who don't like him and who are not racist, being angry at being made to feel racist. But you have to examine the underlying feelings and beliefs behind your reactions, especially when they are disproportionate.  Waleed Aly is right when he says that Australia likes its minorities happy, grateful and quiet - when this is the case we adore them. When they are not, we find it too confronting, and we kick back, hard.

An American caller to ABC 774 yesterday also was not in doubt. A resident here of 20 years, he found the booing racist without a doubt. I'm paraphrasing from memory here, but he said, "Australia is a wonderful society, and there is not the overt racism we have in the US, but there's something about this, what's going on now... This thing is putting me off."

#IStandWithAdam. Australia should learn from this and grow, but with no further negative impact to Adam Goodes.

Adam Goodes - Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0


  1. Good post and I stand with Adam too

  2. Well said. And thank you.
    And how I wish our politicians were standing with and for him too.

    1. The silence from Canberra has been deafening. And to be honest even the AFL has been a bit quiet. It's a bit disappointing, but good to see the media generally aligned on this and taking the stand that our leaders won't.

  3. The matter is something I wanted to write about, but I just don't understand what is happening. I find it hard to believe crowds of people are booing a footballer, as Goodes has been. Who did he rape or murder? I have read much and still I don't understand what is going on. You take is helpful, as is many peoples, but still I don't understand, perhaps comprehend, why or that people are booing him because he is an Aboriginal. At the end of his football career, he is afraid to make his lap of honour in case he is booed while doing so. It is just so wrong and so un Australian......well clearly it isn't un Australian. I just don't get it at all.

    I can only resort to black humour, oops. We better do something to quell the restless natives.

    1. I think everyone is a bit perplexed about it. And yeah, nothing explains it fully, but I think between Waleed Aly and this guy on crowd psychology ( there are some good explanations. It seems so shocking and unexpected - but perhaps that's only to those of us who don't encounter racism in our lives.

  4. I don't know anything about this incident. I find it somewhat surprising as I never think of Aussies being racist or mean-spirited. I think of Australians as inclusive and friendly.

    1. They mostly are inclusive and friendly - but like every pluralist society there are some nasty undercurrents. People are not "racist" here the way they were when I was a kid, and people have got very angry/defensive as the ones booing him at every game will swear they are not racist, that this has nothing to do with him being an Aborigine, etc etc etc. But they're treating him completely differently to how any white player has ever been treated, and refusing to admit there might be a racist element to it. And he's been accused of stuff that he hasn't even done, like being aggressive to crowds and bullying a child, etc. It's just weird, as he has generally been well-liked and respected up until recently. It seems to have started when he pointed out the girl in the crowd who called him an 'ape' two years ago and refused to back down over it, even though he did reach out to her and was extremely conciliatory when she apologised the next day.

  5. Hi Jackie,

    I'd never heard of Adam Goodes but having read up on it, he has been treated terribly. Similar things have happened in the UK to footballers too. Sadly, while trying to eliminate racism in sport, there will always be the die-hard bigots. I once went to see my favourite team and we had a black player - I heard some fans calling him some horrific names when he made a mistake - and he was one of our own.



    1. And the same people would probably tell you it's all in fun and doesn't mean anything. There's something in spectator sport that brings out the worst in people.



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