Amanda Divine 29th July 2015
Only Adam Goodes can stop the booing.
Do the geniuses who run AFL actually think they can command a crowd not to boo Adam Goodes? Next they’ll try walking on water.
No, nothing can be done to force people to like Goodes. Only he can change people’s perceptions of him.
A good start would be for the Swans star to apologise to the 13-year-old girl he singled out for rough treatment during a Collingwood game two years ago, after she shouted: “You’re an ape”.
Goodes understandably was upset at what he took as a racist slur. But as soon as he got close to the girl he should have seen she was a child and let it go.
The Collingwood fan was barely 13 - the daughter of a single mother on a disability pension, from a hard-scrabble town in Gippsland. She told me later through her mother she didn’t even know “ape” was racist. She was just sledging the opposition.
Despite her youth, Goodes was determined to make an example of her. He kept pointing until stadium officials took her away. The crying girl was paraded through the jeering crowd, and detained by stadium police past midnight, while her worried grandmother and little sisters were told to stay in their seats.
When she finally was released, Nana had to drive three hours home, with no offer of help.
“Racism had a face - and it was a 13-year-old girl,” Goodes said.
He had the grace later to accept her written apology, but the damage had been done.
He should have apologised to her a long time ago, but better late than never. At least he would show that he now understands what he did was wrong, unfair, and did nothing to combat racism.
He was a rich, powerful, 33-year-old elite sportsman; she was a defenseless, underprivileged child. And the AFL, if it cared about him, would have told him so, rather than pandering to his misplaced sense of victimhood.
Instead Goodes was hailed a hero for “calling out” racism, and made Australian of the Year where he kept telling Australians they are racist.
This is the root of the crowd antipathy to Goodes. It has nothing to do with the colour of his skin. It comes down to his “dobbing and sooking” after a little girl called him a rude name, as former player Karl Langdon put it this week.
Short of banning the fans, there’s not much the AFL can do about this vicious cycle, other than to counsel Goodes to remake his image. Enlisting other players to incite the crowd on his behalf will only make things worse.
Goodes is upset by the heckling and says he would be “really disappointed” if his career ended on a negative note.
Well, that’s in your hands, Adam. Apologise to the girl, and recognise that Australians don’t take kindly to being accused of being racists when they are not.Then the crowd might fall back in love with you