As professional athletes call out racial vilification on and off the field, players from local sporting clubs are beginning to do the same.
Racist trolls on social media have been at the forefront of many discussions, with the AFL issuing a statement saying that it won’t be tolerated online or at games.
More recently, racist attacks have been reported at local games coming from opposing players.
Melbourne’s Northern Football Netball League (NFNL) recently held a mediation between a Heidelberg player who allegedly made a racial slur towards Bundoora player and Gunditjmara man Kain Proctor.
Proctor said he had been racially abused during a match against Heidelberg, with a teammate saying he also heard a derogatory expression being used.
Proctor said he was called an “Abo dog” during the match, which the Heidelberg player denied saying.
After mediation was unsuccessful, the matter came down to a two-and-a-half-hour NFNL Tribunal hearing where the accused was found not guilty — despite two players confirming the incident.
Proctor took to Facebook to write about the incident and he said the hardest thing was being made out to be a liar.
“This whole situation deeply frustrates and saddens me that this is still happening in not only our local leagues but society and should be dealt with very seriously,” Proctor wrote.
“There has been no support or anything from the league and I feel this major issue isn’t taken serious enough and someone needs to take a stand on it.”
“So my point of this is to take a stand against racism and make sure the next person doesn’t have to deal with the weight of these types of issues, and the right people are held accountable.”
Proctor said it was difficult to deal with, particularly considering it occurred during NAIDOC Week.
So proud of you Kain Proctor for standing up for yourself and these young kids who need you. 🖤💛❤️
— Shelley Ware (@ShelleyWare) July 18, 2021
AFL General Manager of Social Policy and Inclusion Tanya Hosch said the situation highlighted the inadequacies of the policies and procedures in place at the local level to deal with racial vilification and to support the people involved.
“Policy is only part of what needs to be looked at there. Ultimately, we need everyone to understand that these are supposed to be safe environments and sport is supposed to be something that is available to everybody equally,” Hosch said.
“It is not that we can think we can eradicate racist behaviour but we certainly can make sure our processes don’t enable it to happen unfettered.”
She said people deserved appropriate empathy and support in situations such as the one Proctor and his club faced “because they are traumatic and they are distressing”.
Lionel Proctor, Kain’s father and an NFNL Coach, said he doesn’t feel the environment is culturally or emotionally safe for young Aboriginal boys.
“It’s not just Kain, there have been a number of incidents. I know it’s happening in our [Fitzroy Stars] juniors and nothing gets done about it,” he said.
“It’s happening in the netball on Friday nights and nothing gets done about that … everyone should be taking a stand.”
“It seems like the league just sweeps it under the carpet.”
AFL Victoria is reportedly working with community league representatives to strategise better courses of action and support when similar matters arise.
In March, the AFL updated their Rule 35 vilification rule after a series of recommendations to ensure a more inclusive environment across AFL, AFLW and community competitions.
Section 35.1 of Prohibited Conduct now covers anti-vilification towards a person’s race, religion, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
By Teisha Cloos