Jobs Events Advertise Newsletter

AFL bans 16 fans for life over racist abuse of Indigenous players

Andrew Mathieson -

A review into the AFL’s anti-vilification and discrimination rules in 2021 has bumped suspensions from attending matches up from three years to lifetime bans for 16 fans caught last year yelling out racist remarks at venues that specifically targeted Indigenous AFL players.

The extraordinary change of the ban’s length came into place in May last year once the offender was found guilty, although the hefty punishments could be reviewed every five years should the offender prove a change in their behaviour and attitudes in the community.

The AFL had first introduced anti-vilification and discrimination guidelines back in 1995 after Tiwi Islander Michael Long stood up to on-field racial abuse while the decorated wingman was in the peak of his Essendon career.

While abuse among non-Indigenous players of their Indigenous counterparts is uncommon three decades later in the AFL, some spectators in the crowd are still forced to call out their abusive supporters to ground security.

The first of 16 lifetime bans in the 2023 season involved a fan in the crowd who had expressly targeted Western Bulldogs forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan almost a year ago.

The Djap Wurrung/Gunditjmara and Noongar man kicked a goal close to the boundary line and could hear the abusive remarks that have never been publicly revealed.

The AFL Integrity Unit was charged with investigating the alleged incident from the contest while St Kilda said the culprit would no longer be welcome to attend its matches whatever the outcome of the probe.

The AFL joined the Bulldogs in condemning what was described as “the harmful and abhorrent racist remarks” made against Ugle-Hagan before the racist fan was found and identified.

There is no intention to name and shame the person as part of the offender's punishment unlike criminal court proceedings.

Vilification facilitators that are appointed by the game’s governing body has overseen conciliation hearings in community football last year in an attempt to resolve issues with the victim’s concerns over racism remarks somewhat rectified.

The AFL, though, has less direct control over online incidents on social media that has been a worrying trend in recent years.

The AFL works with the e-safety commissioner to tackle the escalating levels of online racial vilification and have been successful in identifying some members of the public that were found responsible, but there has been barriers to precent tracking down some offenders.

In the wake of an on-field NRL incident where Sydney Roosters recruit Spencer Leniu admitted to calling Ezra Mam a “monkey”, Sports Integrity Australia is calling on the players found guilty of the vilification to be held to similar standards as abusive fans.

The high-profile case during rugby league’s newest venture into playing NRL matches in Las Vegas resulted in Leniu been given an eight-match suspension.

Sports Integrity Australia boss David Sharpe said in a statement that leaders within professional sports needed to treat racial abuse far more seriously.

A number of NRL figures including former players such as Indigenous icon Johnathan Thurston were shocked with Leniu’s alleged lenient ban while Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson publicly came out and said, “he is not racist” and that Leniu’s “use of language was on trial” because the intent of the Samoan's words were not racist.

But Sharpe is sticking to a blanket ban no matter what.

“We see strong messages sent to the fans and crowds found guilty of racist slurs with lengthy penalties,” he said.

“These same sanctions need to apply to athletes.

“Australian sports leaders and sponsors must send a message to the world in the lead up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympics and Paralympic Games.

“The world is watching.

“Eradicating racism in sport is the legacy we could be proud of.”

   Related   

From one coast to another, Wallam finds a touch of family in her team's Indigenous design
Donnell Wallam’s defining leap onto the game’s horizon after landing from quite...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
Culture Round bringing Indigenous communities closer to Super Rugby competition
Next to finally capping for Australia in a not-so-distant Wallabies’ future, it...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
Phil Krakouer law suit to grow into Indigenous class action against the AFL
Legal proceedings by Phil Krakouer and on behalf of his brother Jim and other In...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
Hornby backs Latrell for Origin return
South Sydney interim coach Ben Hornby says Latrell Mitchell “wouldn’t let anyo...
Martin Gabor 24 May 2024

   Andrew Mathieson   

Culture Round bringing Indigenous communities closer to Super Rugby competition
Next to finally capping for Australia in a not-so-distant Wallabies’ future, it...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
Phil Krakouer law suit to grow into Indigenous class action against the AFL
Legal proceedings by Phil Krakouer and on behalf of his brother Jim and other In...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
From one coast to another, Wallam finds a touch of family in her team's Indigenous design
Donnell Wallam’s defining leap onto the game’s horizon after landing from quite...
Andrew Mathieson 24 May 2024
AFL system failing to engage Indigenous players amid slump in numbers
An AFL system fixated on discovering the most elite Indigenous footballers has b...
Andrew Mathieson 22 May 2024