AFL apologizes to ex-player for 'disgraceful racism' | Inquirer Sports

AFL apologizes to ex-player for ‘disgraceful racism’

/ 06:23 PM August 24, 2020

AFL

A photo taken on June 29, 2020 show a sign outside the Australian Football League (AFL) headquarters in Melbourne. – Australia’s most popular spectator sport has long grappled with racial vilification, and the recent “Black Lives Matter” protest movement has again shone the spotlight on a scourge that still plagues Aussie Rules. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)

Australian Rules football chiefs have apologized to former St Kilda player Robert Muir for the “disgraceful racism and disrespect” he suffered during his career in the 1970s and 1980s, which left him a broken man.

The belated apology follows Muir, now 66, opening up in an interview on Sunday with public broadcaster ABC, recalling how he was abused by opponents, spat at by the crowd and even urinated on by teammates.

Muir, an indigenous trailblazer, said he received little to no support from his club, teammates or the league. Since his career ended, he has spent long periods homeless and made several attempts to take his own life.

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The Australian Football League said in a statement it was sorry for “the disgraceful racism and disrespect Robert Muir endured during his playing years in our game” and thanked him for his “courage” in speaking out.

“Unfortunately there are too many stories like this in our code and country’s history,” it added.

“We would like Robert to know we acknowledge his story, and, along with the St Kilda Football Club, will be making contact to understand further how we can respond, in accordance with Robert’s wishes.”

Australia’s most popular spectator sport, which is similar to Ireland’s Gaelic football, has long featured indigenous stars, many of whom have been the target of racism, both on-field and off.

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As recently as June, veteran Eddie Betts, in his 16th season, was depicted as a monkey in a Twitter post on the very weekend all teams united in support of Black Lives Matter.

St Kilda chief Matt Finnis said hearing about Muir’s life was confronting.

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“We admire Robert’s courage to speak out about the racism he has endured and lack of support provided by our club when he needed it most,” he said.

“We apologize unreservedly to Robert and his family and are humbled that he continues to love our club.”

Muir, who played 68 games for St Kilda, said he still suffered from a shoulder injury that dated back to his playing career, but he could not afford surgery to fix it.

A GoFundMe page set up by a St Kilda fan after the ABC story has so far raised more Aus$100,000 (US$72,000) “to show him the collective care and support that should’ve been afforded him when he played for our club”.

The AFL began proactively tackling issues including racism in the 1990s, adopting a ground-breaking policy that made it an offense for players or officials to insult someone due to their race, religion, ethnicity, color, nationality or background.

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But underlying problems persist.

TAGS: Football, Racism

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