This post was penned in an outburst of indignation this morning after reading an article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled AFL clubs’ unwritten rule on Aborigines which discusses the AFL’s racist polices regarding Aboriginal recruitment. It draws some interesting parallels between the AFL, the ACT Government and Ernst & Young. I was going to title this post “asinus asino, et sus sui pulcher” but on reflection I guessed that the pillowcase wearing gutless wonders in the AFL, ACT Government and Ernst & Young, the very people Blak and Black is trying to reach out to and show them their true reflection in the ‘Mirror of Truth’ wouldn’t understand, so…
A lot of the people I grew up with in Victoria would say football is a religion. As a child, the only football worth watching was Aussie Rules. There was no rugby league team, no union; soccer was there, but had nowhere near the profile of VFL (Victorian Football League, the precursor to the Australian Football League). Now, you can call me whatever you like, but I’ve always supported, at least nominally, Collingwood. You could say it’s because I hold a fairly black-and-white view of the world, but in reality it’s much more fundamental than that – I liked the fact that they hadn’t won a premiership for so long and were the underdogs that everyone else loved to hate. At home with passions ranging from Essendon to South Melbourne (poor Mum … she refused to follow once her team moved north), Footscray and St. Kilda, I was the token tease. All fun in a big household.
The fabulous thing about AFL was the way in which it had been able to level the playing field, quite literally, between people of so many different backgrounds. It made no difference if you were rich or poor, black or white, as long as you had skill. You may have noticed that I use the past tense. Because today’s Sydney Morning Herald carries an article about the narrow minded and quite frankly racist attitude of some in AFL today. Joe Johnson would probably turn in his grave; he would be entitled to have expected things to have come further a century later.
The most troublesome thing about the statements is this one from AFL community engagement manager:
”I have had direct conversations with a number of recruiting officers. A recruiter from one club told me that ‘unless they have a white parent we are not going to draft an Aboriginal player, and our club would not be alone in that.’”
And here I was thinking that football only had a problem with men treating women poorly, which was bad enough. In reality, the sport has a problem with people in positions of power and racism. And can you guess what I found to be the most striking fact in the article? The people quoted as holding such marginalizing views are the recruiters.
What is it about damn recruiters and racism? Tania Taylor head-hunted the former Commissioner for ACT Revenue (aka ‘Pat’), but after he left of his own accord, Ms. Taylor summarily destroyed his career and life by illegally and deliberately assisting Pat’s Inquisitor to racially undermine his role within ACT Treasury. For heaven’s sake, I thought recruiters were meant to be blind to anything other than skill. But it gets worse, with Mifsud right on the money when he says:
“If you are too black you are not going to get drafted, and in [places such as] Warrnambool, you are not black enough so you are not going to get drafted.”
Remember the Indigenous girl in the ACT who was not black enough to work with Generation One? Generation One, a charity supposedly setup by none other than former Fortescue Mining Group CEO Andrew Forrest, who has progressively destroyed the culture and heritage of the Yindjibarndi, bulldozing his way through courts without listening to the local people.
I’ve written before about how it is virtually impossible to determine a person’s ethnicity or cultural heritage from their appearance. How can you tell a Jew from a Greek, a Pole from a Russian? If I choose to wear a hijab and learn to speak Urdu, would you assume me to be Christian or Muslim, Australian or Pakistani or Indian? With people with such mixed gene pools from so many racial and cultural groups and many choosing to take more liberal views of religion than their forebears, such racial profiling is not only racist, but inaccurate.
I think it’s time the professional bodies such as those overseeing recruiters take a damn hard look at their constituent members and the attitudes they propound. I also think the AFL recruiters deserve a kick up the read ends and need some cultural education. This is the sort of stuff we should be stamping out in our schools. So many children are avid sports followers; in many states they enroll in junior leagues and look up to their sporting leaders as role models. But if all the role models are white, if there are no black, brown or brindle players, how can we show our children that we are really no different, that’s it’s possible to live and play together in harmony?
Ah yes, but that’s actually the crux of the problem, isn’t it? With the Inquisitor in Canberra still holding his role in ACT Treasury and his superiors complicit in the wrongs he’s committed over so many years, with the Generation One Let’s Launch campaign focused on colour rather than heritage, we are telling our children that colour does in fact matter and that white is the only colour worth being.
I long ago eschewed religion and if AFL has taken to such racially biased opinions, I may just have to eschew the last vestiges of my ‘Mexican’ heritage in favour of watching paint dry. I am only a casual follower of any sport in truth, but like many raised in Victoria I still settle into an armchair with a beer and a bread-wrapped sausage to watch the grand final for that One Day in September … or October. But that will cease and I will encourage others to ignore AFL or any sport that marginalizes people in the manner in which the AFL recruiters are apparently doing today. Now Eddy, please tell me that Collingwood’s recruiters are not among those with such racist attitudes. Then, get onto your mates in the hierarchy of AFL and deal with this absolutely appalling situation, get Liam Jurrah the culturally sensitive support he needs and restore my interest in the game I grew up with. No child of mine will watch, play or speak AFL until this is rectified. Ever!
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