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Racism has no place in our game

Two years on from the AFL Players’ Racism: It Stops With Me campaign, it’s clear there’s still plenty of work to be done before racism in sport is eradicated.

The weekend’s events, which saw two spectators from separate clubs have their memberships revoked after racially vilifying players at AFL matches, have demonstrated the challenges that still lie ahead, despite the best efforts of the leaders who stand up against racism.

Racism in sport has been a prominent topic on an international scale in recent months, with athletes from the NBA and European soccer leagues receiving widespread coverage for standing up against incidents of racial abuse in their respective codes.

Despite efforts from players, of all codes, to deliver the clear message that racism in sport – and in society more broadly – is totally unacceptable, for some, the message still hasn’t sunk in.

In recent years, players have been proactive in tackling this issue by throwing their support behind initiatives such as Racism It Stops with Me as well as this player driven campaign in 2011.
Last year marked the 20th anniversary since Nicky Winmar famously lifted his jumper and pointed to his skin, and to commemorate this defiant watershed moment indigenous players throughout the league re-enacted this moment to recognise its significant in tackling this issue.

The message couldn’t be clearer. Fans are encouraged to barrack and cheer for their team as much as they like, but buying a ticket to the footy does not grant anyone permission to abuse another person.

While we have come a long way since Nicky Winmar famously lifted his jumper in 1993, it’s clear we still have a way to go.

As we begin preparation for next week’s Indigenous Round, it’s a chance for supporters to reflect on the great work being done by players past and present to help tackle this issue, take a lead from their message, and celebrate the diversity in our game.