Stop and Listen, AFL: The Goodes Debate

The Age released a poll with this question:
Is the booing of Adam Goodes racism?

The poll at the time of writing?

50% ‘Yes’, 50% ‘No’.

However, if there were a third option of ‘It’s Complicated‘, it most likely would’ve emerged head and shoulders above the simpler answers.

Indeed, even the AFL’s figurehead wouldn’t be drawn into dispensing accusations. Asked on Monday if the boos were emblematic of racism, Gillon McLachlan replied: “I think it’s a complicated question and I am not avoiding it but I don’t think I have a clear view about what it is.”

The key part of McLachlan’s answer are the words “I’m not avoiding it“.

Regardless of their position, an overwhelming majority of AFL officials (and commentators) have labelled the booing of Goodes as racist, unhealthy, and shameful to Adam Goodes and this great game of ours.

But those who try to stray even a little from conventional ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers are ridiculed, cast aside as racist and ignorant to the issues we as a society face.

No one person can ever claim to know what’s going through the heads of thousands of people at any given time, that kind of power reserved for super-powered characters in comic-books and fairytales.

There are undoubtedly some sheep-like supporters who boo Adam Goodes for no other reason than peer pressure, feeling the need to replicate the actions of those around them in order to feel accepted.

There are undoubtedly some who boo Adam Goodes because of their outrage at his supposed ‘precious’ nature and ‘staging’ for free kicks.

And there are undoubtedly some who boo Adam Goodes for no other reason than a pathetic disliking of Aboriginal culture. These toxic individuals see Adam Goodes as one of the figureheads of resistance to suppression of minorities in society, and the thought of his potential success (success acknowledged by his Australian of the Year award in 2014) scares them with the possibility society has moved on from its abhorrent mistreatment of Aboriginals and their culture.

But what there is not is a communal desire to racially vilify Adam Goodes, and the insistence of many that all booing are inherently racist is incredibly nonsensical.

In a society sighted for its multiculturalism, it’s incredulous to suggest all those who boo a particular player are cowardly racists at their core, mere sheep adhering to a particular mentality.

Players like Joel Selwood draw audible criticism from countless supporters, their insistence that he ‘stages’ for free kicks reflected in their loud boos when he comes into possession of the ball or receives a free-kick for head-high contact.

The issue of whether Selwood does indeed stage is irrelevant.

Supporters are a stubborn bunch, and will continue to believe and publicise their viewpoints until they’re proven to be completely wrong (and even that might not stop them).

Call me idealistic, but I like to think that only a minority of the boos towards Adam Goodes are fuelled by cowardice and racism.

A growing amount of the others are fuelled by infuriation at the increasing insistence of many AFL officials and commentators that all booing are racist at their core.

Add another reason for booing to the list, then.

As of 2015, there are 71 listed Indigenous players, and of them there are only two audibly booed at AFL matches on a regular basis: Adam Goodes and Lindsay Thomas.

Thomas, like Goodes, has also gathered criticism across much of the league for his supposed staging and ducking for free kicks.

Again, rightly or wrongly, these are the views held by many in the AFL public, and are reflected through their vocal disapproval during matches.

Unquestionably, not all of those booing these two players are doing so for reasons related to the way they play the game.

There can be a multitude of reasons due to a multitude of moments in a match or previous matches that draw crowd disapproval.

However, what there cannot be is a universal fix-it button, the idea that any who react in a certain way to a player do so for the exact same reasons.

The assumptions (and blatant insistence of some) that there’s only one reason for such reactions are inaccurate and unhelpful, effectively acting as petrol would if one threw it on a fire to try and put it out.

With every insistence of mass-scale racism being the cause of all boos towards Goodes, another cup of petrol is tossed onto the fire, its flames now raging.

When Adam Goodes comes into possession of the football this week, some of the boos will originate from racist views and toxic personalities.

But an increasing number of them will come from a public that are frustrated and enraged at the attempts of officials and media personalities to shoehorn them into an ideology they have and will never stand for, their boos the easiest and most effective way to reach AFL headquarters and media outlets, such has been the attention given to the issue in recent times.

The AFL powers-that-be and several football commentators are creating unity amongst AFL supporters.

But, ironically, they’re unifying them for all the wrong reasons.

David Zita



  1. Grant Fraser says

    Bless you David.

  2. Cat from the Country says

    Very interesting article.
    I do not like Adam Goodes, probably because he helped Sydney demolish Geelong a couple of times.
    I do not like Roman Crowley ditto. They both stage for frees.
    However I do not boo either of them.

    I have been known to boo short sighted umpires that cannot see what Blind Freddy can see.

    Booing has always happened at football. When did it become racist?
    Is that why it has become complicated?

  3. Alistair Watson says

    No one boos Adam Goodes because he is a black but a few boo him because he is an uppity black.

    David Zita’s inward pike with half twist is not going to change that unpleasant fact.

  4. Ho hum. I briefly thought about booing Adam Goodes on Sunday, so that if anyone asked why I could say “the third quarter of the 2005 Grand Final. That bastard cost me thousands in airfares, car hire, and weeks of misery.”

  5. Alistair you’ve summed it up succintly. It seems the primary reason that many boo Adam Goodes is that he’s got pride in himself and his race, something many White Australians can’t deal with. You’d hope in 2015 Australian society had developed to a level where this sort of racism was consigned to the dustbin of history. If any good comes out of this sorry episode, one hopes that racism in sport/society is called for what it is and we get closer to eradicating it .


  6. Mulcaster says

    Waleed Ali nailed it when he said Adam Goodes has stuck his head up as an indigenous is now paying the price. There is nothing complicated about it …. the booing is racist, what else? What the AFL is uncomfortable with is that truth. Recognise it for what it is and deal with it. Compare this with the booing of Paul Gallen in State of Origin three. People will boo for a reason. I blatantly insist that Adam Goodes is being booed for the colour of his skin. Woe unto them who call evil good and good evil.

  7. Dave Brown says

    Interesting, thanks, David. I am sincere (and naïve) in my hope that he will not be booed this week. The Crows have said in a presser along the lines of ‘we have been so fortunate in the respect and care shown to us by other clubs. Hopefully we can return that this weekend’. I am firmly of the belief that if you boo anyone just for taking possession of the ball you should probably stick to using said mouth for breathing through.

  8. “bastard” peter,well excuse me,typical vitriol from Patersons Stadium

  9. I’ve booed players before, but only if they’ve hit someone.
    I’ve never booed anyone because of race, colour or creed.
    And I’m too lazy to boo players longer than 30 seconds.
    It takes too much energy.
    And when you boo a player, you look and sound like a dill.
    Funny how no one boos people at work or in meetings or on the train or at school.
    Booing is restricted to sport.
    That’s because most supporters lose their commonsense when they watch sport.
    It’s just such a silly thing to do…

  10. If the implication that booing is racist, as Goodes himself feels is the case, then why the hell do so many people consciously continue to do it. It shames us all that so many people believe their right to express themselves is OK despite it clearly causing great pain to others particularly to long suffering indigenous people. What would a foreigner think if he/ she were to tune into an AFL match and witness the constant loud booing of a black man? This sorry saga diminishes everyone of us.

  11. Steve Hodder says

    I wrote, last time around, that I knew why Hawthorn people booed Goodes and I didn’t mind. I was a bit naive when I penned that piece. I thought it was all about Hawthorn barackers being pissed off over Goodes sliding into packs during 2011 and 2012; for which he got cited and took an early plea on one occasion. It was the ensuing debate on the Almanac that made me look a bit further and I soon realised that it wasn’t just Hawthorn people booing. It doesn’t matter why, but the booing has morphed into something else and is now something quite sinister. The debate, such as it is, on mainstream media is just a nasty farce that is beating the whole “sorry saga” (nicely put Joe) into the ground.

    Goodes stopped sliding into packs awhile ago, and only the bloody minded feel the need to continue when hurt is the only outcome. Goodes is asking for it to stop, why not?



    It is ok for Maybloomers tostill boo Goldspink!

  12. Grant Fraser says

    Goldspink – gold.

  13. Brad Carr says

    My highly speculative and simplistic assessment of other people’s motivations – different people boo for different reasons, and the break-down is something like:

    20% of those booing Goodes do it for non-racist reasons – these are the same people who booed Matty Lloyd, and now boo Boomer Harvey and Angus Monfries for their staging

    20% of those booing Goodes do it because they are out-and-out racists who don’t care about what might be “socially acceptable” – these are the people who booed the Krakour brothers, Chris Lewis & Nicky Winmar

    The remaining 60% of those booing Goodes do it because they deep down are racists who normally don’t like showing it (because of the stigma of social unacceptability), but think that his staging and the “everyone else is doing it” mob behaviour gives them some sort of cover

    I liked the way Titus O’Reilly put it earlier in the week. If you think you genuinely want to boo Goodes because of his staging (or whatever grievance you think you have), then you might want to stop and have a look around at who’s come to join you. You might easily be mistaken for those that stand alongside you (or those that you’re providing cover for).

  14. Barb Jamieson says

    when I hear people say…..”I’m not racist, but ” I immediately feel a racist comment coming on , but despite that, I would really like to believe the average Austealian isn’t racist . I’ve had to reassess that thought in the last few weeks , and I’m still wondering . But what I do believe is , the horror and hatred of being confronted by any thought that we are racist , is not something we like to hear .
    I do know that I am appalled by the systematic harassment dealt out to Adam Goodes , basically , since he was named Australian of the Year, which has escalated to the point of harassment in the work place, something that nobody should be faced with, every day they go to work . I know many people thought he was far from being worthy of the title, obviously totally unaware of what Adam does off of the playing field , and that some of his speech was confronting to some people, albeit , there was truth in what he said .
    I’ve asked on several occasions what a flog is, just one of the things he’s constantly called , but I still don’t know, so I’m figuring its somebody who tells it as it is , something that touches a nerve , and people don’t want to hear that.
    As for the variety of reasons I’m hearing to justify the treatment he gets , well , if they weren’t so pathetic, it would be laughable. However , the consequences of that justification are nowhere near laughable .
    Whatever has happened to Australia’s sense of fair play , and their ability to applaud a person who can face them and stand up for what they believe. There was a time when we would applaud, but that is apparently now become extinct if you don’t like what they believe in
    Many , many posts on social media, have no reasoning , just abuse and disgusting name calling , and to a man I they don’t know off the playing field , dare to challenge their thinking, and you get the same treatment . Thanks Social Media, or rather , thanks for how some choose to use it , you’ve managed to kill off decency, fair play, and freedom of opinion .
    I’d like Adam Goodes to know that we don’t all think the same , that many of us do know our history and understand that we have a long way to go before we break down the barriers , that doing a war dance WAS his celebration , and that when he pointed to a thirteen year old girl ( which he has been so castigated for) that he wasn’t pointing to a thirteen year old girl, he was pointing to a voice in the crowd. I love football , and my team , but sadly, the day will come that I stop going to the game , and will sit at home so I can avoid the politics of the game.
    i would hate to see you lost to football Adam , and beaten by mindless bullies , you are above that , and bullies of the world, hang your head in shame.

  15. It would appear that , after the round 8 game, the scab that had formed on the “Adam Goodes reception” was well and truly scraped off and has become infected by other more malevolent viruses. Suddenly we are catapulted back to the 1990’s Reconciliation / Apology maelstrom and all those right-wing warriors are back banging on about do-gooders, black armband history, stolen generation deniers, bolshie big-noting aboriginal spokespeople ( or are they really ? ) .. the whole kit and caboodle. They now claim that reconciliation has ‘failed’ due to ungrateful losers and that blah blah – ‘See ? I told you. ‘. Now we encouraged to embrace full-blown schadenfreude .. and bugger me even someone like Jones is piling in ( hence the silence from the PM office ) .

    I was there that night at the G and – even as a seasoned footy fan – was pretty shocked but the current conflagration goes deep and goes nasty. How we deal with this reflects on all of us. Every generation has to wrestle with these demons – they clearly ain’t going away – but they must be fought for sake of our country. Phew – who’d have thought eh ?

    Now all Goodes has got to do is come out strong on climate change – just to really piss off the flat-earthers !

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