Adam Goodes, an Aboriginal Aussie Rules player who was named Australian of the Year for his anti-racism campaigning, has been given time off by his team after suffering abuse from spectators in the country’s most popular sports competition.
Anti-racism activist Goodes has been booed by crowds for most of this Australian Football League (AFL) season.
The 35-year-old, who plays for Sydney Swans was jeered relentlessly by rival supporters in Perth on the weekend.
Senior AFL officials have denounced the jeers and rival players have called on their fans to stop but the AFL appears powerless to quell what has become a highly embarrassing sideshow to the national championship.
Swans coach John Longmire said the strain had taken its toll on Goodes, a two-time Brownlow medallist as the league’s ‘best and fairest’ player.
“He’s sick and tired of what’s been happening for a long time,” Longmire told local media in Sydney.
“Adam needs a couple of days away from the football club and to take a breath about it.”
Other Aboriginal players are free from harassment but Goodes has become a lightning rod for criticism from conservative pundits since a racially charged incident involving a 13-year-old spectator in 2013.
During a match against Melbourne team Collingwood Magpies, Goodes was called an ‘ape’ by a teenage girl. He stopped play to alert security staff, who ejected her from the stadium.
Goodes was both applauded and lambasted for the public take-down of the girl.
His acceptance of the prestigious Australian of the Year title for his advocacy work the following year was to prove similarly polarising.
Critics on social media say their booing has little to do with racism and more with the way Goodes plays, claiming he ‘stages’ or tries to con umpires into giving him free kicks by feigning illegal contact from opponents.
The justifications were given short shrift by Swans chairman Andrew Pridham.
“They’ve tried to come up with a whole host of reasons,” he said. “I know it’s my view and the view of the club, it’s 100 percent racist. That’s what’s driving it.”