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'Complete inaction': Krakouers' lawyer rejects unattainable standards notion in AFL racism class action

Jarred Cross -

Lawyers representing Phil Krakouer have rejected suggestions they are holding the AFL to unattainable standards of protecting players from racism, and expects more past players to join a class action against the league.

On March 5, Margalit Injury Lawyers, acting on behalf of Krakouer, filed a statement of claim to the supreme court alleging a list of revered footy figures racially abused he and brother Jim Krakouer during their playing days at North Melbourne.

Former Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy, Bombers great Terry Daniher, and former Carlton captain Wayne Johnston were among those named.

The class action was first launched last year, with recent documents claiming, between them, Phil and Jim Krarkouer were called a list of slurs including 'petrol sniffer', 'A*o', 'Black bastard', 'Black c**t, 'smelly Black c**t' and 'n***r' and attacked by opposition players in the 1980s, with torment - both verbal and physical, and spitting, at times coming from the stands.

"(Phil) Krakouer left the game damaged because of the abuse he received during the NMF Club period," the statement of claim read.

Krakouer has brought the class action forward on behalf of all Indigenous, persons of colour and all those who experienced racist abuse between 1975 and 2022.

Margalit lawyer Emily Sinclair told National Indigenous Times, as "keeper of the code", the AFL - then the VFL - had responsibility to ensure the league was a safe space for players, prevent racial vilification from occurring and properly managing the situations where they did.

The statement of claim listed more than 40 'reasonable precautions' which could have been in place.

These included safeguard systems, reporting procedures, encouragement to publicly denounce racism against players, identification, prevention and counter abuse training, and requiring umpires stop matches in the event of racism, for opposition players, staff and supporters.

It's alleged both racial vilification was a tactic used by opposition players, and that the AFL should have been aware of the risk of abuse towards players given the experiences endured by past players before the Krakouer brothers' careers in Victoria, including Indigenous greats Syd Jackson and Sir Doug Nicholls.

On Sunday, News Corp reported one legal expert said "they appear to be trying to hold the then-VFL to a standard of perfect conduct by 2024 standards – a standard no other organisation in the world, sporting or otherwise – did meet or could meet".

Ms Sinclair said the suggestion was "just incorrect".

"What we say to that is, in 1975 racial vilification legislation was in place, and the law is there to reflect society's standards," she said.

"Not only was it not acceptable in 1975 and beyond to racially vilify someone, it was unlawful."

She said there was "complete inaction" from the league in a 20-year gap between the federal legislation and the introduction of their own vilification rule - now known as Rule 35.

Ms Sinclair anticipates more past players considering joining the class action going forward with inquiries already coming in.

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