Goodes’ blunt response to ScoMo question
AFL legend Adam Goodes has opened up on the "toxic" environment that forced him into retirement after he took a public stand against racism, and taken a subtle swipe at the Australian government for its work with Indigenous Australians.
The Sydney Swans icon called out a fan who racially abused him during a match against Collingwood in 2013 and he was booed relentlessly during the final part of his career, which ended on a deeply sad note two years later.
So hurt was Goodes by the constant racist jibes, he declined to take part in the traditional grand final lap of honour for retiring players in 2015.
Speaking to British journalist Stephen Sackur for an episode of BBC's HARDtalk, Goodes said walking away was the best option.
"Me choosing to walk away was me making a choice for my own mental health," he said. "And I needed to get away from this toxic environment which, up until that point in time, had been a safe place for me to just be an incredible player that I wanted to be and to learn to be the leader that I was.
"But here I had the choice to submit myself to this toxic environment or get away from it and really reassess my priorities."
Since quitting footy, Goodes has continued to fight against racism. He produced the documentary The Australian Dream, which focuses on his final days as an AFL player, and is hopeful attitudes will change one day so nobody has to experience what he did.
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, Goodes believes more people globally are "woke to racism, especially casual racism". But when asked what has changed most in the five years since he stopped playing, the 40-year-old said mainly he's happy because he's no longer in a position to be publicly targeted.
"I think the biggest thing that's changed for me is that I'm not putting myself in a situation for that abuse to be put on me every time I went to work," Goodes said. "So that's the biggest thing that's changed for me.
"I'm incredibly happy … and I've definitely moved on from that part of my life."
Sackur asked Goodes about his feelings on Australia's political leadership when it comes to treatment of Indigenous people, referencing Prime Minster Scott Morrison's support of Captain Cook and claims the country has never had slavery. Morrison was later forced to backflip on his slavery remarks and admitted "all sorts of hideous practices" had taken place in Australia's history.
Goodes didn't directly attack political leaders, but offered a veiled swipe about the work being done to help Indigenous Australians.
"I don't know if they're listening or not," Goodes said when asked if his message was getting through to the government. "There's other issues going on in our country that they think need more attention.
"You have to remember, we're 2.8 per cent of the population here in Australia, so not much time and effort is put into working with us as Indigenous people. And when I say working 'with' us, that's listening to us, taking our advice and creating good governance and policy behind it.
"We have some incredible Indigenous leaders now in our parties which is great. We need more of it.
"For me, I will work with government, I will help them achieve their KPIs when it comes to Indigenous outcomes but I don't have time to wait for them and Indigenous people don't have time to wait for the government to get this right.
"So we're working with corporates here in Australia who understand it, who see the value here in Australia of working with Indigenous people whether it's for education, employment or philanthropic work."
Unfortunately, racism towards Indigenous AFL stars has continued to plague the league, but whereas Goodes was openly booed during matches, much of the abuse players cop these days occurs on social media.
Just last month Carlton cult hero Eddie Betts outed a racist troll - a trend that has become more common in recent times.
"It is truly unfair and these people use profiles that they just make up and it's really hard to capture who these people are," Goodes said.
"The racial abuse that I've had at football fields, I've always been able to see the person who did that so I was able to point them out and report them and have a conversation with those people on what it is and hold them accountable for what they have said.
"Unfortunately when you have the majority of an arena booing you it's really hard to pinpoint those individuals who start it."
Originally published as Goodes' blunt response to ScoMo question