by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
The round three Showdown match between Adelaide and Port Adelaide was marred by several unsavory incidents. Which came first is unknown but there was a brawl between a number of spectators in the stands and verbal racial abuse directed at Crow Eddie Betts (who had a banana thrown at him in 2016 - the perpetrator had her membership revoked) and Paddy Ryder. Both clubs have issued statements condemning the incidents and are working with the AFL, Adelaide Oval management, and police
in an effort to identify the brawlers and the Adelaide supporter who abused Ryder. Apparently, the offender was confronted by nearby patrons but fled before he could be apprehended. The offending Port supporter who abused Betts, was apprehended and ejected from the stadium. He also had his Port membership card confiscated with his membership being suspended indefinitely.Port Adelaide CEO Keith Thomas said the incidents of racial abuse was "... at complete odds with the values of our club, represented in our spectator code of conduct. We simply will not tolerate this behavior ... we need to continue to educate football supporters that this type of behavior is not acceptable at our games or in society ...". CEO Gillon McLachlan, while putting on a cool and calm demeanor at a press conference, was clearly seething internally. He commended both clubs on their public statements, and said that the football community must continue to be vigilant and call out racism whenever it occurs. "Racism is hurtful and damaging ... we must call it out," He went on to say that the game had a responsibility to the players, that they deserved respect and that such vilification has an impact on the players, their families, and the community. In regard to the community, he reinforced the AFL's stance on its role in the broader community to try to educate and eradicate racism.
He also urged all supporters to stand up to racist and unacceptable behavior and told those who would continue their anti-social and racist behavior to not attend games because the AFL was "... welcoming to everyone." He acknowledged that the game had come a long way on and off the field and that most supporters were passionate and accepting, but that the league would continue to "tackle" the isolated incidents and call out the perpetrators. He said the he would work closely with newly appointed Director of Inclusion Taylor Hosch, who replaced Jason Misfud, on match-day initiatives and education. She was previously the joint campaign director of Recognize, an organization that pushes for the inclusion of indigenous Australians in the national constitution.
Hawthorn star Shaun Burgoyne, who was recently appointed chairman of the AFL Players Indigenous Advisory Board, issued a statement which said in part, "We're sad that our brothers and sisters are still experiencing racial vilification despite the ongoing education and promotion ... This has been happening for far too long and we ... have had enough. We deserve more respect ... The abuse ... is more than just words and people need to understand the impact that it has on the player, their family, their children and their community. While it's heartening that these incidents are being called out, there's a lot of work to do before we can claim to be a truly inclusive game."
AFL Players' Association CEO Paul Marsh said, "No AFL footballer, and no person for that matter, should have to experience any form of vilification in their workplace.".
Port star Chad Wingard issued perhaps the strongest statement of all when he spoke to afl.com.au, which chose to print his full statement. He said all Australians had to take a stand, "As a club and as a person and as a nation, we need to stand up and say that's not acceptable, not just in football but in life in general. To be discriminated against for something that you're born with, that people are proud to be, is pretty low. But as a club and as a community, we're hopefully going to educate people about it and how much an effect it has on people. Hopefully it's a learning curve and it doesn't happen again. The first and foremost thing to say is that it's not OK to be racist or to have those remarks said about anyone ... whatever culture you're from, it's not acceptable ... The sad thing is, this has happened to the majority of indigenous players ... The ones we really need to stand up for are the local communities. At an AFL level, it gets pointed out. At a local level, people ... slurring people ... they're the people that we need to stand up for. That's the real sad truth, that it happens a local level and nothing gets done ... We need to make sure we make a big stance because the kids that are 12, 13 years old just want to enjoy playing football ...and they've got no one to stand up for them ... I've copped it as a junior and it's pretty confronting. They're the people I'm trying to stand up for, those people that don't have a say ... [to say] that we're there for you and we're going to make sure this doesn't happen again ,,, "It's bigger than sport. It's not Crows vs Port, it's not AFL v NRL, it's people vs people; we've got to be there for each other as a community and as Australians, we're in this together. It doesn't matter where you are from. We're a culture that is very diverse and we have to make sure we are accepted and that's not going to bind us who we are."
There was also a Port Adelaide fan who used social media to verbally abuse Eddie Betts. Her identity was known within a matter of hours and she is facing charges. Police say the woman, 31 year old Maxine Spratt, used a carriage service to post insults on Facebook. Spratt, who claims to be part Aboriginal, said she didn't think her rant was racist. in her tirade after Port's loss to Adelaide, she called Betts an ape and said he should go back to the zoo where he and his family belong. Her Facebook account has since been taken down. Now she says she fears for her safety as she and her partner have received threats. Port won't be able to take action action against her because she is not a member.
Now, she says she regrets her remarks and has apologized, saying she should not have "put it out there ... it's nasty and harsh." She also wants to meet with Betts to offer a face to face apology but the club has already ruled that out. She has tried going to the club and calling with no result. The club said their primary concern was for Eddie, a sentiment echoed by his teammates. Captain Taylor Walker was also a target in the woman's postings and had this to say, "It is baffling that people can write that and say that sort of stuff ... It’s pretty hard for Eddie and myself to not look… I felt more for Eddie than myself.”
Although she is facing charges for malicious use of social media, neither Walker nor Betts plan any sort of action against her.
Source: afl.com.au, Daniel Norton, PA Media Release, au.news.yahoo.com
Article last changed on Thursday, April 13, 2017 - 12:38 AM EDT