The Adam Goodes ‘booing’ saga has been a remarkable confrontation between two values apparently central to the self-image of white Australians – the individual right to be fanatical about sport and the communal tolerance of cultural difference. The commentariat, apart from a few columnists in the Brisbane Courier Mail, have deplored the racism which has been linked to the fanaticism of AFL football crowds. It is equally plausible that the fanaticism of the AFL crowds is merely an indicator of deeply-entrenched attitudes in the wider community which bubble to the surface when the anonymity of mass gatherings removes inhibitions.
The AFL is unusually wide-ranging in the social class spread of its support, even if Western Bulldogs and Collingwood supporters tend to be identified with lower socio-economic strata. So crowd attitudes cannot be explained away as protests from the dispossessed in society. Goodes plays for Sydney, so sporting antagonism to Sydney as a locale is felt both north and south of the state borders. Nevertheless, the hostility shown to Goodes is intensely personal, correctly seen to be based on racism not football. In this sense, it has served a valuable purpose in forcing white Australians to contemplate the base instincts on display and recognize the need for change.
Among the welter of commentary, two items stand out: Stan Grant, a well-known Australian journalist, of Aboriginal ancestry from the Wiradjuri, on the sense of alienation experienced by all Aboriginals: ‘Estranged in the land of their ancestors, living on the fringes of a rich society’.
The Conversation carried a contribution from TJRyan Research Associate, Marcus Wollombi Waters, with a personal proposal for changed team behavior which mobilises the fans by celebrating rather than denigrating cultural difference.
See also a selection of other commentaries.