BY AMY MCQUIRE, AUGUST 10, 2011
Originally published by Tracker Magazine.
Aboriginal AFL star Lance Franklin was the victim of racial taunts recently. (AAP IMAGE)
NATIONAL: The AFL and other football codes have largely missed the ball in working to eliminate racism in their sporting codes. That’s the view of Professor Colin Tatz , an expert on Aboriginal sporting history, an avid campaigner against racism and the author of several renowned books on Aboriginal sporting achievement, including Black Goldand Aborigines in Sport.
“Racism has always been there, and always will be there,” Professor Tatz told Tracker. He said this was despite the players who have taken a stand against it.
According to Professor Tatz, the AFL’s current approach is not working. He said there are two approaches to racism in sport – on the field or off it.
“One approach is to take the route that we always take, which is the educational approach,” he said.
“The basis of this approach is ‘we’re going to educate these guys out of their racism and try and reason with them,’ and if they’re not reasonable we’ll say they’ve got some sort of mental aberration, an illness that needs therapy,” he added.
He believes the second approach is to introduce harsher penalties.
“The second approach, which is the only sane approach, is to criminalise it,” he said “If you were to say to any AFL player, you do it once, you are warned, you do it twice, you lose your license, they won’t do it anymore,” he said.
It comes following a number of incidents recently that have made the AFL question whether it has fully stamped out racism in the code.
Earlier this year, Hawthorne star Lance Franklin was the object of racist remarks while playing against West Coast in Tasmania. A month later, racist sledges were directed at Sudanese player Majak Daw in a VFL game.
The AFL claims it has a no-tolerance policy towards racism. The AFL administrator responsible for setting up a 1995 racial vilification code, Tony Peek, recently said he believed education was the key.
“The view of the players at the time it was set up was that they were adamant this wasn’t about severe suspensions or other sanctions without education,” Tony Peek told the Herald Sun newspaper.
“A program based around education is fundamental.”
Professor Tatz disagrees.
“They made a great big fanfare in the 1990s after the Michael Long incident, and Nicky Winmar,” he said. “Newspapers filled the sport pages about how wonderful the AFL and, now the NRL are, with codes of this and codes of that. They offer (players) counselling as if they are giving them some gift from the Gods. Counselling doesn’t answer that problem.
“If you don’t wear a seatbelt you get fined $250. The reason you wear the seatbelt is not because you are aware of your own body, but because it will cost you money if you get caught.”
Racism in sport is a problem Australia as a whole had to come to terms with, he said. “If we think racism is serious, then we have to have serious penalties for it,” Professor Tatz added.
“There’s a public face that says ‘racism is not correct’, but we still indulge in it all the time. If we are serious about racism then we have to criminalise it.”