I finally brought myself to watch the Final Quarter Documentary chronicling the Adam Goodes booing saga at the end of his career in 2015.
The documentary provided no additional analysis, original content, or exclusive interviews. It simply was a compilation of media clips from 2013 when Goodes first singled out the girl who called him an ‘ape’ all the way to his retirement in a sea of boos in 2015.
Although simply a refresher on the saga, the documentary was made with the purpose of framing Adam Goodes as targeted by the fans due to his race, and the AFL establishment unwilling to call it out and leaving him to deal with it alone.
The Adam Goodes Story
Adam Goodes began his AFL career in 1999, won two premierships and two brownlow medals with the Sydney Swans before he was ever booed. His career to that point had been exemplary with no on-field or off-field controversy.
It all began during the Indigenous Round of 2013, when Sydney played Collingwood at the MCG. Adam Goodes and the Swans put on a stellar performance defeating Collingwood by 47 points.
But in the dying moments of the game Goodes is by the boundary and can be seen pointing at a spectator who commentators quickly conclude made a racial slur at Goodes.
The commentary for the rest of the night was how hurt Goodes must be due to the racial abuse, Collingwood President Eddie McGuire decided to go down to the Swans rooms to apologise to on behalf of the club for their ‘racist’ fan.
The next day we learned the alleged ‘racist’ fan was a 13 year old girl who called Goodes an ‘ape’ because of his hairy appearance. But Goodes still took it as a racial slur and called her ‘the face of racism in Australia’.
Although he said to leave the girl alone and it wasn’t her fault, Goodes held her up as a form of original white sin, that white Australians are born and raised racist and this was embodied in this 13 year old girl.
The pile on from AFL heavyweights against this ‘racist’ 13 year old girl backfired a few days later when Eddie McGuire on his Triple M program suggested that Goodes should promote the new King Kong movie. The AFL was too scared of McGuire’s power and influence to properly discipline him, but were only too eager to vilify a 13 year old girl.
Because of Goodes’ bold stand against ‘racism’, and to be fair worthy community work with the Indigenous community he was named the 2014 Australian of the Year.
But it was how Goodes behaved as Australian of the Year that began the boos from AFL fans. Because he was an Indigenous Australian of the Year Goodes was encouraged to subscribe to the black-armband view of Australian history.
First he was asked whether he believed Australia Day was Invasion Day, his answer was he could understand how some could feel sorrow at the day.
Then he was sucked into far-left filmmaker John Pilger’s propaganda film Utopia which alleges that white Australia from colonial times to even the present day has had deliberate policies designed to entrench Indigenous disadvantage.
Goodes said “Utopia has shown me how, over 225 years, the Europeans, and now the governments that run our country, have raped, killed and stolen from my people for their own benefit”.
He always referred to fellow Indigenous Australians as my people, that he was a proud Indigenous man and told white Australia to remember whose land you’re on. But Goodes had a Scottish father, so he had ancestry connected to white Australia yet did not want any association with it.
During his reign as Australian of the Year Adam Goodes supported the ‘Recognise’ campaign to have Indigenous Australians mentioned in Australia’s constitution. It’s a campaign that hasn’t come to a referendum in the current year. He also appeared in the Australian Human Rights Commission ‘Racism, It Stops with Me’ advertising campaign.
Each of Goodes’ entry into hectoring white Australia about their inherent bigotry and racism, that Australia didn’t really belong to them and our history was one of shame saw the boos grow towards the end of the 2014 season. It was most notable and began to receive mainstream media attention in the Sydney Swans losing Grand Final appearance against Hawthorn at the MCG.
The Booing Intensifies
The boos continued into the 2015 season, but were accelerated when Goodes antagonized the situation during the 2015 Indigenous Round match. After scoring a goal he performed what most interpreted to be a war dance towards the opposing Carlton supporters and threw an imaginary spear at them.
The aggressive and hostile nature of the dance was interpreted by many as act of defiance by Goodes against the white AFL fans who had been expressing their displeasure at his recent activism. The initial reaction from AFL commentators was negative, believing such a dance has a place in the game.
Australians have been raised with a rich understanding of Indigenous culture and rituals, and were not aware such a war dance existed. Adam Goodes explained at a press conference the next day that the dance was invented only in 2006 by an underage group of Indigenous footballers called the Flying Boomerangs. Not exactly a dance created thousands of years ago.
Round 17 at Subiaco Oval in Perth when Sydney played the West Coast Eagles is when the booing become the loudest. The game saw another Sydney Indigenous player Lewis Jetta perform Goodes’ war dance in response.
Following the game the booing of Goodes dominated the news media cycle with debate between commentators raging over whether it was racist. AFL journalists Gerard Whateley, Caroline Wilson and Mark Robinson beleived the booing was racist, calling it a shameful period for the game. Former players Dermott Brereton, Garry Lyon and Sam Newman believed it was due to Goodes’ own poor on and off-field behaviour.
Those supportive of Goodes’ activism flooded social media with praise for him. Sydney Swans fans created a campaign to cheer him where they could. AFL clubs wore indigenous-themed Guernseys or armbands, and a video was released featuring all AFL captains to discourage the crowd from booing him.
Goodes took a week of leave after the West Coast game, but despite the campaign to support him and to scold the booing as racist the boos continued right until the end of his career when Sydney was eliminated from the 2015 finals by North Melbourne.
Before the Final Quarter Documentary premiered the AFL and its 18 clubs issued an unreserved apology to Goodes for the sustained ‘racism’ and events at the end of his career:
Adam, who represents so much that is good and unique about our game, was subject to treatment that drove him from football. The game did not do enough to stand with him, and call it out. Failure to call out racism and not standing up for one of our own let down all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, past and present. Our game is about belonging. We want all Australians to feel they belong and that they have a stake in the game. We will not achieve this while racism and discrimination exists in our game… We will stand strongly with all in the football community who experience racism or discrimination. We are unified on this, and never want to see the mistakes of the past repeated.AFL Statement
Waleed Aly’s Contribution
Following the documentary screening on Network Ten a special edition of the Project aired hosted by Waleed Aly. All the panelists both indigenous and white agreed the booing was racially motivated, that the AFL mishandled the saga, and that with the release of this reflective documentary we needed to have national conversation about race in Australia.
Waleed also penned an opinion piece about the Adam Goodes documentary where for some reason he compared the booing saga to Trump’s tweets about the Squad of the Democratic Congresswoman who he told to leave America. It was entitled ‘Trump’s racist tweets have parallels to the abuse of Adam Goodes‘.
Waleed alleges that ‘racism lives in the double standards that mean someone gets attacked in a way a white person never would’ which apparently ‘becomes especially clear in cases such as these, which involve people in esteemed positions.
This was what supposedly ‘makes them threatening, because they imply a national identity that ‘is broad enough to include them. The giveaway is when those who oppose them seek not merely to counter their ideas, but expel them from the bounds of “us”. Trump’s language makes that explicit. In Goodes’ case it was expressed in booing so relentless it was designed to send him into exile’.
He parroted a similar argument during the booing saga. He claimed the reason Goodes was booed and not the other 70 Indigenous players in the AFL was because he was the only one challenging what it means to be Australian, and asking Australians to reflect on their history. Goodes didn’t shut up so he was punished for it.
The Real Reason for the Booing
Has white Australia does some shameful things in its history? Of course, but it is to white Australia’s credit we recognized these injustices and spent the rest of the 20th century correcting them. White Australians today live not just side by side with Indigenous Australians but races from all over the world.
White Australians believe we have created one of the greatest civilizations in the history of the world. Overall, the Australia project has been a successful one, and it is worth celebrating. When someone tells us it basically should not have happened, no matter who they are, black or white, we take offence at that.
Goodes as an Australian had reaped the benefits of modern Australian society. His talent as footballer had seen him reach the game’s most elite competition, he had won all there is to win in terms of AFL honours. His large salary was paid for fans of the game who pay to attend matches, buy merchandise and watch on television.
To shove all this opportunity back into the fans faces by getting sucked into the elites’ Aboriginal grievance industry was a grave mistake by Goodes. It wasn’t all his own fault, but he allowed himself to believe that white Australia had forever and continued to systematically shun Indigenous people. Goodes found the backlash something he could not handle.
It is worth noting that the booing of a specific not happened since. There was speculation it might happen to Muslim AFL player Bachar Houli in 2017 when he used Waleed Aly and Malcolm Turnbull as character references to try and escape a striking charge at the tribunal. But this did not occur.
AFL Fans Are The Best
AFL fans are not racist, they tolerate the AFL’s social justice rounds for the most part: Indigenous Round, Multicultural Round and the LGBT pride match. But they can be pushed too far; they were by Goodes. They were again recently when Behavioral Awareness Officers sought to tell fans off for cheering too passionately.
The lesson from the Goodes booing saga should be this: don’t treat the AFL fans as backward and uneducated filth who it is the job of the game’s administrators and its social justice division to enlighten and educate them about the supposed wrongs of their way of life.
AFL fans are the best and most well behaved sports fans in the nation, they follow the game to escape the stresses and troubles of daily life. They want to watch a good contest of elite athletes and not have any other agenda thrust upon them. It is not too much to ask.