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“I’m black and I’m proud to be”

The Adam Goodes’ saga reminds us that racial vilification is one of sport’s most contentious issues.

Racism in sport historically has been a display of taken for granted behaviors and attitudes. Without recourse, Indigenous Australians have been racially abused from the day they first stepped into the sporting arena. AFL, in particular, had fostered an environment where racist behavior happened systematically, and arguably racism become a sporting institution.

In the early 1990s the dimensions of racism were sufficiently bad for the AFL to convene meetings to discuss players’ code of conduct, albeit their efforts never went beyond being merely token approaches. It was not until Essendon’s Michael Long in 1994 made a public statement against the abuse he had to endure exclaiming “I’ve had enough of this shit. I don’t have to take it”, was it seriously addressed.

Despite years of inaction during which racial vilification sullied the football field, the AFL acted with admirable swiftness following Long’s complaint. By June of that year it introduced Rule 30, the Racial and Religious Vilification Rule, making it an offence for any player or official to threaten, disparage, vilify or insult another person on the basis of that person’s race, religion, colour, descent or national background. The then Federal Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Nick Bolkus called for the punishment of offenders found guilty of racial abuse, as by now the Long appeal was heard in the highest corridors of Australian society. By the start of the 1998 season, the penalties were a $10,000 fine for a player’s first offence and/or a $20,000 fine for the club.

One of the beauties of sport ‘is that it can, in a single moment of clarity, illuminate or delineate a mood or a movement or an era’ (Tatz et al, 1998:96). In 1993, the International Year of the Indigenous Person saw widespread public discussion of Aboriginal issues, but the most articulate summary of the national lassitude was non-verbal: the image of Nicky Winmar raising his guernsey and pointing at his black skin. This defining moment occurred as a response to loud racist abuse from the opposition’s cheer squad. Some reports suggest he yelled, “I’m black and I’m proud to be.” Whatever his words, the classic photograph of him defiantly pointing at his skin was a potent symbol that forced a nation to search its communal soul.

With the reputation of a player prone to extreme bouts of temper – no doubt as a response to the provocation of racist insults (personal view) – he had never been more eloquent or effective for his cause or his colour than he was in that moment.

Twenty years later Adam Goodes is confronted with the same abuse as he raises another potent symbol of his Aboriginality. And again we search our communal soul.


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  1. M-R

    If he will only come back and play one more time, the humans in the crowd can CHEER every time he touches the ball …

  2. John Kelly

    It use to be a great compliment when opposing supporters booed a player. The player would be inspired by it. Today, it is much darker than that. Somewhere along the way things changed. They booed ‘The Duck’ after the sex affair. They booed Leigh Matthews after he poleaxed Bruns. They booed players who had been caught taking drugs. Now, it seems they only need the flimsiest of excuses to boo players they don’t like; especially the ones who play so well they demoralise the opposition. And now, those flimsy excuses are used to demonstrate the worst of our prejudices.

  3. Florence nee Fedup

    Why is that needed? Heard a university professor who has carried out study into Australian Rules Football say this morning, that supporter of this code actually think different from main stream. somehow it is inbuilt into the code, the structure that encourages racism.

    I will go further, our society don’t like victims from any abuse speaking out. I like Goode and others that spoke last night am the proud survivor of the abuse I suffered. Not racial, but DV and mother of daughter sexually abused by a partner. Yes, I am proud of what I achieved when I moved on.

    Goode in the interview on Insight, which was recorded before this outrage also talked about poverty and DV. His father who was white, abused his mother, until she left. Stan talked about not having money for food.

    What I can’t and will not do, is convince myself, I was not a victim. I was nothing can change that.

    It is time for all victims to speak out, The rest of the population has trouble dealing with hearing about personal tales. Brings home to them, the society and culture they are so proud of is flawed. Yes, most of the abuse comes from flawed beliefs within our cultural, our society.

    That is what they are having trouble with, when they look at Goode. Seems many more at last, are coming out with him.

    Us victims can change little. It is up to society as a whole. All need to look at themselves, stop blaming the victims for their discomfort.

    Racial, DV and sexual discriminated are often inter related. All have same causes,

    It takes guts, opens up old wounds to talk as many are doing. It needs to be done, to bring home to people, that wrongs are still happening to many. As Stan Grant said, he had to think hard before writing that article yesterday. He, along with all of us, are well aware we are opening ourselves to abuse, We are challenging our cultural and societal values.

    It is not about us victims, it is about ensuring there are no more victims. it is about creating a fairer and jut society.

  4. Florence nee Fedup

    There was a time when one cheered on your own side. Cheered winners I believe. would be nice to see it again. Was a time when Queensberry Rules applied. when being a good winner and loser counted.

    A time when the means was as important as winning. How one won was important.

    Well maybe I am wrong, but I do know these were the values we attempted to instil in our kids.

  5. Harquebus

    I have just came across this in my normal course of daily reading and although it is not relevant to sport or Goodes himself, I have commented on or posted links on all other Goodes related articles on this site so, Micheal, here’s yours.

    “The media played a crucial role in this, notably Lateline, which broadcast an interview with a disguised witness the program called a “youth worker”. In fact, he was a senior official in the Department of Indigenous Affairs who reported directly to Brough. His lurid allegations were discredited, yet the ABC never apologised – instead, it conducted an enquiry that wondrously cleared itself. I asked both Tony Jones and reporter Suzanne Smith to account for themselves on camera – as they demand of others – but they failed even to respond. Even an ABC functionary refused to be interviewed.”

    Bob Randall: “Brown Skin Baby (They Took Me Away)”
    h ttps://

  6. Florence nee Fedup

    Wally, you still do not get it. You are putting your interpretation on that dance. You are rejecting Goode’s explanation of it. The question one could ask, is why?

    It only lasted a few seconds. was not meant to offend. Could it be those who object to his actions, that have a problem?

  7. Florence nee Fedup

    The allegations that Bough and Howard used as an excuse for the intervention came from convictions in courts. Nothing was hidden. No great terrible number of victims of sexual abuse were found after the army went in.

    The truth is, if there were children being abused, finding them would now be harder. One needs trust and support of the community to protect kids.

    Remember Howard sent doctors on to examine all the kids. Thankfully, doctors and others said no go. That would have been abuse of children on a massive scale.

    The Intervention came about because Howard was facing bad polls leading up to an election. Labor should have dropped the policy the day they came in to power. Trouble is, there are many on both sides politics that believe they know what is best for these people. They do not.

    I hope the conversation that has occurred over the last few days continue. we might reach a sensible place when if comes to Indigenous affairs. We just have to listen.

  8. John Lord

    We are as one Michael.

  9. diannaart

    Nailed it again Florence

    I will go further, our society don’t like victims from any abuse speaking out

    Makes people feel uncomfortable when those who are considered less important than the dominant group, speak out. It gets labeled complaining, attention seeking or anything other than what it is. The vulnerable speaking out is akin to denying their appointed place in society and the dominant group don’t like it, not one little bit.

    The dominants try to claim Goodes’ character is at fault – not the real reasons they do not like him – then they’d have to admit they are bigots.

    “I am not anxious to be the loudest voice or the most popular. But I would like to think that at a crucial moment, I was an effective voice of the voiceless, an effective hope of the hopeless.”
    ― Whitney Young, American Civil Rights leader

    “When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.”
    ― Bette Davis

    “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
    ― Coco Chanel

  10. Florence nee Fedup

    diannaart, I am not only talking about redneck and bigots. I have found it to be true among friends, workmates and extremely decent people.

    I worked in welfare family but mostly abused children. Children who were victims sexual abuse and DV families. I was taken back, when told by workmates, compassion young people, that me reciting my experiences made them see me as a client, not a work mate. Somehow telling my story, led them to seeing me as a lesser person. My amazement was to be stunned. I only ever said anything, not to seek pity, but to place before them some sense of what the mother’s, children could be feeling. I would like to add, I found that my experiences had no effect on my judgement when working with these people. This did worry me, before I took on the work. I didn’t see abuse where no existed.

    I think people might not want to hear, because they don’t want to be in the position where they have to act. I know that sounds silly. People don’t want to hear the black armbands versions of out history. That is a shame, as it is rich history that has many positives as negatives.

    I am not accusing anyone of anything, Just pointing out what I believe to be fact.

  11. Pingback: Australia’s Shame | olddogthoughts

  12. diannaart


    I really appreciate your reply to me.

    I was at the doctor’s for my monthly check-up last Thursday and my doctor, a man I perceived as quite sophisticated, was in a grumpy mood, not unusual, but what he said was, “We can’t even boo at the football any more”. I never thought of him as racist, I still don’t (his partner is Asian). I have wondered if he has bothered to think through the issue – the way we have – who knows what he has gleaned from the media in his very busy life.

    However, such responses from people who do not fit the redneck/bigot image are breath taking, are they not?

  13. Florence nee Fedup

    No one is saying anything about booing. Booing every time one is on filed for over 12 mths is a little different. Even if guilty as charged, doesn’t deserve that level of abuse. What they are really saying, I have the right to abuse anyone I disagree with or don’t like.

  14. wam

    racism is a learned human trait. Non-Aborigines have had access to Aboriginal stereotypes for 200 years. They learn it at mother’s knee, in the school yard in the class room on the TV in films. It is a significant measure of racism as displayed by europeans, that when obama get into a lift women clutch their purse closer to their chest.
    Racism can be unlearned but that requires education and effort after you admit to yourself that you are a racist.
    When hundreds of thousands of australians in 6 states boo a player because everyone else is booing there is a problem when sam newman and eddie everywhere admit is was his reaction to the pie young woman and his ‘war dance’ that was the cause but that is not racism. When the coach of the dockers ask for no booing his plea was ignored and qagain it was not acknowledged as having anything to do with race.
    Vics should be aware of people like Johnny Mullagh but john lord confessed that he didn’t see b;lacks till the shiny black africans immigrated. We we had plenty of shiny blacks in north australia and one plays for essendon.
    Sadly we are getting better at accepting black immigrants but we have a long way to go to rid the institutionalised special entrenched racism against our own Aborigines.
    The real shame is the use of ‘they’ putting Aborigines in one group. How can that be when there a hundreds of languages and customs and so many colours, shapes and sizes.
    I played for buffs and Rueben Cooper was an educated Aborigine in the era 100 years ago. He wrote about racism yet he would have not been subjected to the abuse given to Adan.

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