Round 22 – Port Adelaide v Adelaide: Time to walk down the road less travelled

On Saturday night Port Adelaide and Adelaide played off in a memorable Showdown full of drama, fierce attack on the ball and a high-scoring, nail-biting finish. It was a great Showdown in front of almost 50,000 fans. And with 15 seconds to go on the clock the real drama started, and continues to rage 36 hours later.

 

Eddie Betts, the bane of Port’s existence on Saturday night kicked his fifth and last goal of the match, his 250th. It was one of Betts’ usual boundary line specials, and he ended up near the fence celebrating as only he does, fists pumping chest and was soon joined by his rapturous team-mates. Port’s fierce rival scored a win, Betts, so un-popular at Port because of a mixture of talent and antagonism the focal point and icer of the winning cake and all in front of a Port Adelaide home crowd. A female Port Adelaide supporter, and financial member picks up a discarded banana off the ground and flings it in Betts direction. It neither hits him or any other player but her actions, unbeknownst to her are being captured for the whole world to see on amateur video. Her photo, soon to be circling social media is also taken. Within an hour of the game finishing on Saturday night the video and photo have been circulated countless times, her identity confirmed by those who know her and the Port Adelaide Football Club is made aware of her identity. Then things get murky. And nasty. Really nasty.

 

What this supporter did was incredibly stupid, nasty and ill-thought out. An act made even more idiotic in the current political climate and in light of the recent Adam Goodes saga. A person purported to be her father speaks with Adelaide radio today to suggest her actions were neither pre-meditated nor racist, that she is a lovely person and that she is now being hounded and demonized. And both statements are true. She was stupid, and she has been demonized. Other Port supporters sitting in close proximity to her have talked about her potty mouth and racist comments throughout the match and the season. The potty mouth part is rich coming from other Port supporters. Sit on the hill at Alberton and you’ll hear some true filthy language. Same for sitting on the hill at Adelaide Oval. Port fans historically take no prisoners when it comes to supporting their football club. They never have. And filthy language has been a part of the clubs’ DNA since 1870. No surprise there. Port as a club has always fostered and nurtured strong Aboriginal talent, both in its SANFL days and since the club joined the AFL in 1997. Wanganeen, McLeod, the Bond brothers, AhChee, Neade, Cockatoo-Collins, Pickett – the list goes on of fine Aboriginal players that have worn the colours. Port Adelaide isn’t a racist club, and in fact has one of the best Aboriginal development academies in Australia.

 

Further reason why David Koch and Keith Thomas needed this latest controversy like they needed a hole in the head. Especially considering how poor Port’s season has panned put in 2016. On-field Port Adelaide have been slack, disinterested and lazy, poorly skilled and lacking strong leadership. Off-field they’ve pinned much hope on an investment into China with the club aiming to play a game for AFL points in the country next year. Some would say forget about other possible AFL and financial markets, and get things right where they really count; on the field in Adelaide. It’s an argument with merit, considering the expected membership drop-off to come over summer.

 

Port knew on Saturday night they had to act quickly. And with authority. Or risk coming across like Collingwood did after the Nicky Winmar and Damien Monkhurst controversies in the 1990s. And act swiftly Port did. They wasted little time in confirming a year ban in 2017, with the threat of further bans if the banana throwing was racially motivated. They quickly concluded it was and slapped the girl with an indefinite ban, and the opportunity to spend some time being educated by Port’s Aboriginal stars.

 

Port’s stance was swift and fair in banning the girl for a year, but I’m not convinced an indefinite ban is the answer. Port were under pressure sure, but they may have also erred in not talking to the girl herself before coming up with a sanction and penalty. At least then they would have heard her reasoning, and a little about her background and motivation for such a stupid act. Having said that most people, including hard-to-please Crows fans seemed more than pleased by Port’s front-foot approach to an unwanted controversy involving a financial supporter of the club. But it also leaves Port little room for movement in the future if the same sadly happens again.

 

But the banana throwing incident soon threw up an even uglier side (if that were possible). Social media, the last resort of the coward lynch mob had the girl hung, drawn and quartered not long after the lights had been turned out at Adelaide Oval for another week. If ever people need a reminder of the under-the-surface ugliness that seeps out of people in these moments, they need look no further than Facebook and Twitter on Saturday night and right throughout Sunday. It was a relentless stream of hate, bile and abuse, dished out not by uneducated saps but mothers, fathers, teachers, doctors and football lovers. It was ugly, and much of it completely unnecessary.

 

Calling out racism in sport is all of our responsibility. There is no place for it, and if her actions were racially motivated then she had every right to be punished. And she has been. Why kick someone when they’re down? By now, Monday morning the girl knows she’s one of the most hated people in Adelaide. Her social media accounts have been taken down, and according to her father she has gone underground. Her real name is also floating all through social media. She is suffering. She’d no doubt be horrified and what she’s done, ashamed and embarrassed and unless anyone has proof to the contrary, full of remorse. But if it were left to many social media users yesterday none of that would have been good enough for them. They wanted blood. The vultures all came down from the tress; feeding time.

 

The simple fact is unless any of us have never screwed up in a big way, we have no right chucking the vile threats and nastiness that many chose to yesterday at anyone. It’s the ugly side of Australian society, the antidote to the ‘lucky country, fair go for all’ mantra that many spurt but most never live by.

 

Do you think this girl in question will ever go back to a Port game again, ban or no ban? Doubtful. So that’s someone lost to the game for a stupid moment of madness. That’s a heavy price to pay already, official punishment aside. She may work, which makes going back there this morning incredibly awkward, if not impossible. Her family, and her friends will know and see what has been written and feel a mixture is sadness, anger and pity. It’s hard to imagine any of those friends and family will condone her actions in light of the evidence, but they will be the ones that will have to pick up the pieces of her immediate life in light of the savagery of the wolf pack, and her own stupidity. That may take time. She’d be feeling depressed, maybe even suicidal. Will anyone who was so quick to judge and throw threats in her direction feel any sadness if the worst case scenario happens and she harms herself in light of what has happened? Because if you’re one of the many who decided social media was the forum to character assassinate this girl but then you care not a jot that she had harmed herself would make you no better than her in my eyes, and many others.

 

It’s easy to be a sanctimonious windbag in moments like this, up on the high horse reading to pounce. The world’s full of vultures, full of keyboard warriors who spend much of their time waiting for incidents like this to leap into action. Those people don’t chuck bananas at opposition players. No, they chuck insults without thinking, they threatened physical violence without a thought to consequences, or any thought to how that compares to throwing a banana on a football field. The irony…

 

And it’s all about perspective, and all things being relative. I don’t recall a tsunami of angst when former Crows player Nathan Bock assaulted his girlfriend in an Adelaide pub by pushing her into a wall some years ago. And haven’t heard one word from either the SMA in Adelaide or radio station 5AA in regards to more serious crowd trouble that occurred in the station’s privileged corporate reserve where drunks and idiots are free to roam, assault innocent patrons and make asses of themselves. Silence. Deafening silence.

 

We don’t want items thrown at players, or officials or other fans. We’ve all been victims. I once got hit by a full Farmers Union Iced Coffee carton at Football Park courtesy of the North Adelaide Cheer Squad back in the late 1980s. English soccer fans use to throw bananas, coins and fruit filled with acid at opposing supporters. Nobody wants that. And nobody wants racism at sporting events and to live in that sort of world.

 

But we also can do without the indiscriminate threats, abuse and character assassination of people who to put it in the simplest terms right royally fucked up. That’s not a world I want to live in either.

 

CHRIS MICHAELS

Comments

  1. Jamie Mason says:

    Brilliant response. I’m not condoning her actions in any way, they are obviously unacceptable. She does, however, need support from her family, friends and workplace. Im pretty sure Eddie Betts is the sort of person who would offer her an olive branch and work to give her the cultural perspective that she obviously needs.

  2. I remember reading about West Indian cricketers having bananas thrown at them when they played in matches of the North of England. This disgusting behaviour ha sa history.

    I have no sympathy for this woman. An act of madness ?!? FFS, this sort of behaviour needt to be called for what it is ; racist . Yep let’s exonerate her, excuse this behaviour, but if we do so where/when do we draw the line? In 2016 , that this ignorant and arrogant behaviour occurs, and people try to justify it, gives a sad indicement on a large swathe of Australian society.

    Fair dinkum we should be working toward a treaty to bring us together as one mob. Yet we have people like this woman out there, with others seeking to exonerate her. It’s time for us to acknowledge that our White Australia has a Black History, and celebrate this great land as one mob.

    Glen!

  3. Dave Brown says:

    Hi Chris, completely get your perspective but must take issue with some of your points:
    – she is a woman, 24, not a girl. I read its usage as to convey naivete in her actions. I believe there was none. Stupidity but not naivete.
    – you describe the banana as discarded and flung in his direction. Another reading of that situation, and backed up by the Port Adelaide supporters around her that confirmed she was making racist comments, was that she brought the banana with a clear intent should the opportunity arise. She threw it directly at him and it was only the reflexes of Josh Jenkins that prevented it from striking Betts square in the back. Thank goodness it did not. The idea that a vocal racist might throw a banana at an aboriginal footballer without racist intent is fanciful in the extreme.
    – my reading of Port’s response is they have absolutely nailed it. An indefinite ban gives plenty of room to move as it means just that – indefinite – anywhere from tomorrow to never. They can determine when it is appropriate for her to resume membership (if she wishes to do so) based upon getting to know her better and seeing how she progresses through their excellent Indigenous cultural awareness programme. To slap an arbitrary time limit on it would be much less responsible from the club.

    You get no argument from me on the rest – people are too quick to respond with hatred whereas pity would seem more appropriate in this situation. However, she sought to belittle another human being in public on the basis of their race. There are repercussions for such behaviour of which she, no doubt, is now gaining a better understanding.

  4. There is a story of a American pilgrim eventually getting her audience with the Dalai Lama. He sees she is looking very sad and asks her the cause.
    “While coming here in the early morning dark I saw a man beating his dog viciously.”
    “That makes me very sad too. I wonder what must have happened to a man to beat an innocent dog?”

  5. E.regnans says:

    We all get to choose how we react.

  6. Jamie – Thanks.

  7. Dave – Thanks for the feedback.

    Didnt mean to make it sound like she was a girl therefor naive. Should have said woman.

    I think Port did respond well but I would have liked them to have spoken to her before deciding on punishment. Lack of due process. But agree with the year ban..not keen on that ban continuing beyond that. Regardless she wont want to come back to the footy again anyway which is very sad.

    I’ve been astonished by the social media backlash. I didn’t realise there were so many perfect ppl in this world.

  8. I hear this morning the offender says that she “made an error of judgement.”

    It’s intriguing that whenever someone is caught out acting in a racist manner, they never say they’re a racist. No, now they try to use another term to exonerate themselves.

    Way back the 80’s the term they used was ” i’m not a racist but ….”

    Sad.

    Glen!

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