Thousands of words have been written about Adam Goodes, with many opinions thrown around about the type of AFL player he is. What are the facts?
Adam Goodes is an Indigenous Australian, an Andyamathanha and Narungga man who was born in South Australia in 1980. He was drafted to the AFL in 1997 by the Sydney Swans, spent a year playing in the reserves, and was awarded the best first year player award in 1999.
Goodes has won two premiership medals (2005, 2012). Goodes was the Swans’ best and fairest three times (Bob Skilton Medallist in 2003, 2006, 2011), their leading goal kicker in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and served as captain from 2009-2012.
Goodes has played in a variety of positions for the Swans, utilising his height, speed and athleticism and skill to great advantage. He has been reported five times by the match review panel and has served a total of two one match suspensions. Indicative of his career, Goodes has won two Brownlow Medals, one in 2003 (in a three way tie with Mark Ricciuto and Nathan Buckley) and a solo effort in 2006.
Goodes was in the All-Australian side in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2011, and represented his country in the International Rules football game in 2001 and 2010. In 2010, he captained the side to victory against the Irish.
Goodes is a member of the Indigenous team of the century and there is no doubting he is one of the most decorated players still currently playing AFL football. He has played 365 games of senior AFL football and is the current games record holder for the Sydney Swans.
He served as a member on John Howard’s Indigenous Advisory Board, and has long been involved in community and youth programs to support Indigenous children. In 2009, Goodes and his cousin Michael O’Loughlin (of Kaurna, Narungga and Ngarrindjeri descent) formed the GOFoundation, which provides scholarships to schools for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
The GOFoundation believes that education is the most important factor for assisting Indigenous Australians, and partners with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) in order to assist Indigenous kids in completing their schooling.
In 2013, during Indigenous Round, the Swans were on their way to an historic win over Collingwood. During the match near the boundary, Goodes turned and pointed at a figure in the crowd. It was a teenage girl, who called Goodes an ape.
She was ejected from the ground, and Goodes left the ground soon after, so shaken by the abuse – and the youth of the perpetrator – that he didn’t finish out the match. The resulting controversy sparked a national debate about racism, with Goodes at the forefront. He handled himself with composure and compassion, despite his obvious hurt at the racist taunt.
In the press conference dealing with the fallout after the game, Goodes responded with brutal honesty and remarkable compassion. Goodes stated “it was a 13-year-old girl but it’s not her fault. She’s 13, she’s still so innocent, I don’t put any blame on her.”
Goodes spoke about the impact that racism has on him, and that “after being verbally abused as a child growing up, I never want anyone to feel abused, verbally, about your race, about being black, about your appearance.”
“And hopefully today people hearing this message, they can understand that it’s unacceptable and it hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me, it hurts my brother, my mother, it hurts my family, it hurts my non-indigenous friends,” Goodes continued.
Throughout the press conference, Goodes continued to try and use the situation to educate his fellow Australians, and to ask for compassion and understanding for the perpetrator. “I’m standing up last night saying it’s still happening, it still happens and it’s a shame that it’s a 13-year-old girl, that’s the sad thing about it, so sad, and that’s what hurts me the most,” Goodes said.
“She’s a young girl and has no idea what she’s called me, no significance of what it means. So it’s education, it’s me standing here telling you that a simple word like ape can cut me so deep, it’s derogatory – it’s not only me, it hurts all black people everywhere.”
It was a combination of Goodes’ decorated playing career, ongoing community work and in particular his compassionate and incredible effort at handling a racist taunt that resulted in him being nominated and then declared Australian of the Year in 2014. It was said that “Adam is a great role model and advocate for the fight against racism both on and off the field, and is admired by a great many people around the nation.”
Goodes is not perfect, but he is a remarkable man who has had an incredible AFL career, and who has – until this point – led an absolutely amazing life. He’s inspired fans of the game and supported members of the wider football community and Indigenous youth, using his profile, his intelligence and his capacity to articulate the struggles faced by his people to wider Australia.
I recently watched a replay of the 2012 AFL Grand Final: one of the most remarkable things about it was the conspicuous absence of continual booing every time Goodes touched the ball. Yet, if you tune into any AFL game from the current season, and from siren to siren there’s a swelling tide of vitriol directed at one of the champions of the game.
Two years after what many are now holding up as the inciting event, the narrative has been shifted. Many commentators are positioning Goodes as a bully, creating the perfect scenario for racist justification: an angry black man targeted and victimised an innocent 13-year-old girl. Except, that isn’t what occurred.
Goodes was well within his rights to point out the young girl: he was well within his rights to pursue charges, or demand the AFL or Collingwood ban her from games, but he did not. He asked for calm, he asked for support, he repeatedly referred to the girl as a victim, as an innocent.
Not surprisingly, the mother of the girl who uttered the racist taunt has been happy to speak to the media and lay the blame on Goodes for the booing, claiming that if he hadn’t pointed out her daughter, he wouldn’t be getting booed. Is it shocking that a woman who raised a child happy to repeat a racist epithet would go along with revisionist history and blame Goodes for mistreating her daughter, when in truth he acted with nothing other than compassion towards the girl who abused him?
Adam Goodes does not need to modify his behaviour.
Adam Goodes has done nothing to deserve the level of punishment being directed at him by people who claim they are fans of the game.
The only people who should be feeling shame are those who make more and more outlandish claims as to why they have the right to boo a player whenever they feel like it, no matter the consequences. A variety of AFL coaches, AFL clubs and now AFL players have denounced the treatment of a champion of the game: yet still, social media is full of petulant children claiming that they have justified reasons for their behaviour.
In truth, the only reasoning that stands up to logic and to facts is that this incessant booing only began when Adam Goodes pointed out uncomfortable truths to white Australia about the history of the country they stole from successive generations of Indigenous Australians.
The only people who need to examine their behaviour and their prejudices are those who continue to boo a man who has said that he and the rest of his industry feel is racist. On AFL 360, Brendon Goddard – acting as a representative for the AFLPA – stated “we need to respect what he’s feeling: if he feels that it is racist, it is”.
“Going forward it needs to stop, and if there is any continual booing from this point on, it will be considered as in you are being racist. Adam feels that, other Indigenous players feel that, other players internally and externally from other teams all feel that: that’s how we feel and you need to respect that,” he continued.
So it seems that everyone – except those obsessing over their right to boo and those justifying that their booing isn’t racist – understands that the booing is unwarranted and bullying a champion player from the game is unnecessary. These supposed supporters need to stop obsessing over their right to boo and step back from being defensive and critically examine their motives.
What do you gain from booing Goodes from the beginning of a match to the end? What do you take from him and other Indigenous players when you engage in this behaviour? What message are you sending to Indigenous kids about their value, their worth and their right to stand up against racism?
On AFL360, Jordan Lewis supported the right of fans to boo, if it was when a player had left a club or when something happened during a match. However, he stated that “to boo someone for 17 consistent weeks is just not on… if you continue to boo from now on, it’s just idiotic.”
There is no respect or understanding for those who insist on arguing the semantics of booing. You fall into the same category of those who derided Nicky Winmar as a ‘dummy spitter’ for pointing to his skin when you call Adam Goodes a sook for expressing pain when he experiences racism.
White people are not the arbiters of Indigenous culture: white people, especially delusional ones like the ejected West Coast Eagles fan, are not the judges of what is racist. Since this year’s Indigenous Round, it has been widely discussed that the booing is perceived by Goodes as being racially motivated, yet still, people persist.
In a press conference today flanked by the entire Sydney Swans team, CEO Andrew Ireland informed a packed press conference that “hopefully with a few more days off, he’ll be better and want to get back into his footy, [but] we’re not certain of that.”
If you have continually booed Adam Goodes throughout this AFL season, you have contributed in bullying a champion of the game from a sport that he loves by making him feel racially vilified – you should be ashamed of yourself.