Sunday, May 27, 2012

Black and Proud

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.


  1. You'll never stamp racial abuse in sport its to ingrained :-).

  2. Young children play with each other oblivious to any colour differences between them. It's only as they grow and take on the prejudices of their elders then peers that racism and unthinking racist language creep into their behaviour.

    In addition, 'sledging' is a pervasive practice in Australian sport at an elite level providing an unending model of unacceptable behaviour.

  3. I'm reluctant to comment too often since my resurrection here (deciding to leave it a while) but you've come up with one of my deeper interests in life: football. I've never hated Collingwood. It's bullshit. I follow Richmond. In the days when the game was working class all of us supporters had teeth missing.

    Monkhurst called Long a "black bastard" during a ball up and worse has been said to white players about their families, it's all part of the game. And getting called a poofta would be a weak insult unless a player was actually known to be homosexual.

    Shocking things are said on the field, particularly before the first bounce in a Grand Final. You can get your opponent into a fine old emotional state, he'll play the man instead of the ball. Almost every retaliation is payback for something said.

    Football has come a long way from spectators having a muddy slope to stand on and a tin-shed toilet down at the fence. I remember a game at the old Fitzroy ground in the rain where you couldn't tell one mud-soaked jumper from another and the ball disappeared in the slush. It came down to trying to crawl with it from one end of the ground to the other.
    That was footy. It's PC now, with a covered stadium, and an AFL chief on three million a year. Careful what you say. Feminism is watching.

  4. Agreed... as symbolic act, Winmar pointing to his bare black skin was a magic moment that will last for decades. He didn't hit anyone, he didn't knife anyone and he didn't involve the police. He just showed 22 million Australians that he was a brilliant athlete, black and open about it.

    Mordy Bromberg copped a great deal of anti-semitic verbal violence when he was a St Kilda footballer. Today he is a judge of the Federal Court of Australia - revenge is sweet!

    I only wish that other sportsmen could rise above the verbal violence equally well. Alas we have seen stunning athletes be defeated, in the end, by booze.

  5. There've been "dirty players", aboriginal and otherwise. But how's this, there was an aboriginal umpire, a player found a chicken bone on the ground and offered it to him.

    Player: "You've been umpiring like a dog all day, here's a bone for you."

    Umpire: "Don't give it to me or I'll point it at you."


  6. Windsmoke, it is much reduced now though surely.

    Victor, you have only to watch kids playing and they don't even seem to notice different racial looks at all. Not being a sportsperson, I don't see the point of sledging at all. Surely someone being sledged knows it is a tactic to put them off their sport and ignore what is said. Obviously not as simple as that, it seems.

    RH, I thought it was the 'c' word used but no matter. In spite of the business of modern football, it seems just as popular as ever.

    Hels, I've not heard of Bromberg, but it does sound like fitting revenge. I don't remember other Jewish players, but then I am hardly a footy follower.

    Amusing anecdote RH.

  7. I think my first consciousness of an aboriginal footy player was Polly Farmer. Talk about ornaments to the game!

  8. You might want to start proof reading before clicking "publish".
    a "pubic" dental health system" doesn't sound right to me.
    I remember the chicken bone story, from quite a long time ago.

  9. Geelong, wasn't he LS. I certainly remember him. With glee I note you did not pick up my typo.

    But you did River. It is not the first time I have done that but I previously picked it up in time.

  10. Such an iconic photo of Mr Winmar.

    Racism seems to be pretty entrenched in sport - perhaps it's the far-lower-than-average IQ of most players?

  11. Yes, Winmar provided a magic moment. And yes, you would think an elite athlete could focus enough to ignore rubbish.
    Unfortunately, two major elements of Australian culture seem to be sports and grog. It's almost like parliament, really. When we set a pathetically low standard, people can be counted to live up to it. Even Mr Latham thought he was up to par.
    But back to football, and Aboriginal players. Michael Long for president.

  12. Kath, please, some of the players are private school lads. Ah, ok, I get what you are saying about lower iq.

    FC, the thought that Latham came close to to being PM is frightening. Taking an aboriginal person as being perfect spokesperson and or role model, scares me. No one person can represent the many tribes. But it does seem all tribes can take pleasure in the success of one our indigenous. Not a bad thing.

  13. Which study shows sportsmen have lower IQ's than the wider community? Ha, talk about prejudice!

    AFL attracts a wider audience now, middle-income if you please, with all its sugary niceness.

    Typos should be ignored.

    Polly Farmer's handball style improved the game.

  14. RH, I don't think we need a study to inform us about sporting people's IQ.

    Typos should normally be ignored but when a typo turns public to pubic, I think it is worth noting.

  15. Then what is your low opinion of sporting peoples' IQ based on? Your prejudice is showing.

    Picking on typos isn't awfully sporting. We're not journalists.

  16. You've written people's instead of peoples'.