IIt’s been another onerous weeks on the ‘no room for racism’ carousel 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 over the weekend, with new allegations that a spectator racially abused Carlton defender Adam Saad on Saturday night.
The simplistic slogan partly reflects widespread ignorance of what racism is, how it works and how it appears. But, as a microcosm of Australian society, it also reflects the AFL and its clubs, which maintain an unwavering focus on growing the game at great moral and ethical cost.
Racism has oxygenated the game and over the generations has allowed it to develop. At this point, the only apparent change is that verbal and online abuse – the easy-to-understand low hanging fruit – is supposedly no longer tolerated.
Without an ounce of self-awareness, the Dockers stood in solidarity with Walters and Frederick in a long-standing partnership with Woodside, Australia’s largest independent oil and gas company.
Woodside’s proposed expansion of Burrup Hub LNG threatens Murujuga, a priceless cultural treasure on Western Australia’s Burrup Peninsula that archives more than 50,000 years of human ingenuity. Living in the lands, seas and skies, Murujuga holds the traditions, dreams and songs that have connected and sustained the First Nations peoples of the region since the first sunrise.
If there really was ‘no room for racism’ then Fremantle wouldn’t be partnering with Woodside.
The West Coast Eagles and the AFLW would also not be in partnership with BHP, another multinational which destroys ancient Aboriginal cultural heritage and has exercised gag clauses which prevent traditional owners from raising objections or preventing their sacred sites from being damaged.
Port Adelaide is reportedly not in partnership with Santos, whose Barossa offshore project – described by gas economist Bruce Robertson as a “carbon dioxide factory with an LNG by-product” and by the Australia Institute‘s Richie Merzian as “one of the dirtiest gas fields in Australia” – is the subject of legal action by traditional owners of the Tiwi Islands seeking to halt development.
Even the homelands that gave birth to the Rioli football dynasty of Maurice, Cyril, Daniel, Dean, Willie and Maurice Jr, who as a collective brought more joy to the game than any other family, are not banned. .
If there was ‘no room for racism’ the league wouldn’t be so closely tied to Telstra, given the telecom company was recently ordered to pay $50million in fines after admitting taking advantage of vulnerable indigenous customers by enrolling them on mobile. phone contracts they didn’t understand or couldn’t afford.
The AFL is reportedly not in close partnership with Coles, which recently ignored the wishes of traditional owners and Indigenous medical services to expand its Liquorland stores into communities with the highest drinking rates in the country. . The science and economics of exploiting vulnerable communities also extends to the many fast-food chains with longstanding ties to the code.
Because fairness, justice and proportionality are defined and measured by those who cannot bear the brunt of racism, bigotry at the individual and institutional level is often met with a slap on the wrist and a red carpet in another role. leading within the industry. . Like clockwork, the ‘no place for racism’ crowd chants ‘stop living in the past, everyone makes mistakes, it’s time to move on’, just in time for the merry-go-round to wrap up a another round, only to be propelled forward by more of the same.
The “no room for racism” crowd, many of whom have paternalistically positioned themselves as geeks and storytellers, also refuse to acknowledge the structural role that wealth, whiteness and the private school system play for prospective recruits – who, year after year, continue to dominate the draft.
Just over a quarter – 25.6% – of players drafted from AFL clubs in 2017 came from the 11 schools that make up the Associated State Schools of Victoria, which also provided four of the top five selected. These 11 schools – Melbourne Grammar, Scotch College, Geelong Grammar, Xavier College, Wesley College, St Kevin’s College, Haileybury College, Caulfield Grammar, Brighton Grammar, Geelong College and Carey Grammar – are considered the “cradles of owners and decision-makers in the country “. manufacturers”.
Despite the outsized contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players make to the game, there is silence around the fact that Aboriginal coaches make up 1.5% of AFL coaches, with Barry Cable and Polly Farmer the two only Aboriginal head coaches in VFL/AFL history. .
As the old saying goes, a problem well posed is a problem half solved. For the AFL and its clubs, the problem is twofold. The first is an ignorance of power brokers whose rise and tenure depend on maintaining the status quo; and the second is a surrender to capitalist imperatives that define anything other than growth as loss.
Of course, the problem is not insoluble. But standing behind the “no room for racism” banner while profiting from it is certainly not the cure.