I heard some reportage today about Nickie Winmar. My eyes filled with tears as I remembered. It was 1993, so we had just moved to Balaclava. Winmar played for the St Kidla football team and St Kilda was playing against Collingwood and Collingwood supporters were lambasting Windmar with racial abuse because he was Aboriginal. Eventually Winmar pulled up his footy jumper and pointed to his chest, indicating he had Aboriginal skin colour. The rest is history, but in a summary, if you abuse your fellow team mates, or if you are a supporter bent on abuse, then you better phrase it like, your head looks like melon. You are a poofta or your mother has been done by the entire football team might also be acceptable.
I heard a joke today. Has PM Gillard switched her allegiance from Footscray to Collingwood by setting up a public dental health system? Too cruel. I was on a rail substitute bus once coming into town from the north with many Collingwood supporters and I noted that they did have some teeth, albeit the numbers and spacings weren't crash hot.
But all is fair in sport, or is it?
In 1991 Collingwood captain and player Tony Shaw stated that he would use racial abuse in every game if it would help Collingwood win the match.
While Winmar had brought about awareness, it was not until 1995 that a heavy AFL foot came stomping down on racial abuse.
In 1995 Collingwood player Damien Monkhorst racially abused Essendon Aboriginal player Michael Long. Action was taken by the AFL but even mediation did not sort the matter out. Long was left angry and bitter.
It wasn't until player Michael McClean stated to a media outlet that Aboriginal players would start naming and shaming players who racially abused them, that the AFL drew up a code of conduct.
Does racial abuse still happen on the footy field? Yes, as it did last year when Footscray player Justin Sherman racially abused Gold Coast Suns player Joel Wilkinson. However, it is much reduced and has become generally unacceptable. Even spectators are generally careful about what they call out, although there was appalling abuse last year in Tasmania, successfully dealt with.
Good on those who stood up for themselves and the fellow indigenous players and their team mates who stood up for them, but as a symbolic act, Winmar pointing to his bare black skin was unbeatable.