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News > World

Indigenous Aussie Rules Players Fed Up With Fans' Racism

  • Indigenous AFL players Bradley Hill, Shaun Burgoyne and Cyril Rioli wear the Hawthorn FC Indigenous jersey

    Indigenous AFL players Bradley Hill, Shaun Burgoyne and Cyril Rioli wear the Hawthorn FC Indigenous jersey | Photo: HawthornFC

Published 13 April 2017

"How long must we put up with this?" asked the players in their open letter to fans.

In the wake of a high-profile racist attack on Indigenous players in the Australian Rules Football league, members of the players' union Indigenous Advisory Board have issued a powerful open letter to fans saying they have "had enough."

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"How long must we put up with this?" the players asked in the bold opening sentence of the letter. "Racial vilification has been a part of our game for too long."

"There's no room in our game for any form of vilification, whether it's based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation," wrote Shaun Burgoyne, a player with the Melbourne-based Hawthorn club and chair of the players union Indigenous Advisory Board.

"Anyone who thinks that this is an acceptable way to act is no football fan."

The letter, published on Tuesday, is a response to a racist incident Saturday where two Indigenous players from opposing teams, Eddie Betts and Patrick Ryder, were each subjected to racist verbal assaults by fans during a match.

Police have since charged one woman for calling Betts an "ape" on social media after the game, according to ABC.

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"That both Eddie and Patrick were abused because of the color of their skin is absolutely unacceptable and we, as the AFL Players' Indigenous Advisory Board, have had enough," continued the statement signed by seven players.

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"Despite the amazing work done in the community by our brothers and sisters, they continue to experience this disgraceful treatment," the statement continued.

"These are more than just words and the impact these slurs have on the player, their family, their children and their community is profound," they added.

Saturday's incident is just the latest in a long history of racism in one of Australia's most popular and culturally significant sports.

Last year a fan was banned after she was filmed throwing a banana at Betts.

"The sad thing is, this has happened to the majority of Indigenous players throughout their careers," said Chad Wingard, a player for Adelaide and member of the Kaurna nation.

Australia's original inhabitants make up just three percent of the country's population of 23 million people but, because of 200 years of colonial violence, have disproportionately high rates of suicide and incarceration, tracking near the bottom in almost every economic and social indicator.

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