An AFL Players’ Association report has revealed the league’s startling problem with racism amid calls for a league-wide review from indigenous icon Eddie Betts.
A third of the players who took part in the survey and identified as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or people of colour reported experiencing racism while being AFL-listed.
Of the 92 players that identified as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or people of colour, just 17 per cent said issues with racism had been dealt with satisfactorily.
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Fifteen of the cohort of 92 players spoken to also said they’d experienced racism in the league within the last 12 months.
According to the report, players said the most common instances of racism occurred on social media. However, there were also “concerning” reports of players dealing with racism from those within the AFL industry.
The insights into the AFL’s racism problems come on the back of a report commissioned by Hawthorn, which contained some disturbing historical allegations of mistreatment of First Nations players at the club between 2010 and 2016.
The AFL is set to conduct an investigation into the matter, but is yet to determine the four-person panel that will lead the probe.
Former Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson and his former right-hand man, current Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan, have both stood down from their current roles to assist with the investigation. Both men have categorically denied any allegations of wrongdoing.
AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh called for the investigation into the allegations at Hawthorn to be conducted independently of the AFL, suggesting the league has a conflict of interest.
“I don’t know if there can be an AFL process,” Marsh said on Thursday.
“I don’t know how the AFL sits in judgement on this.”
The players and their families who have made the allegations against Clarkson and Fagan from their time at Hawthorn have expressed reservations about re-telling their stories to the AFL, having already done so to those conducting the Hawthorn review and to ABC journalist Russell Jackson.
There are reservations regarding the investigation from the coaches’ perspectives as well, with the AFL Coaches’ Association concerned about Clarkson and Fagan not being afforded “natural justice” given the media coverage of the probe.
Clarkson, Fagan careers hanging in the balance
Both coaches deny wrongdoing and are preparing to fight to clear their names.
“Coaches named in the Hawthorn Football Club report were not interviewed or provided with an opportunity to respond to the allegations made before it was handed to the club and AFL. They still have not had an opportunity to respond in full to the claims made in the report, which has now been provided to two major media outlets,” AFLCA CEO Alistair Nicholson said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The allegations are confronting and warrant proper examination. Our thoughts are with the players and their families who have shared their stories, as well as other First Nations people who have been directly or indirectly affected by the publicity around the report.
“But the seriousness of the allegations does not obviate the need for a fair hearing for the coaches, who have strenuously denied the claims made in the report.
“The AFLCA is continuing to offer both coaches our support with a focus on their personal wellbeing.”
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