Thursday, July 30, 2015

in support of Adam Goodes: a message to his bullies

I'm doing it again! I'm wiring about AFL. Only this time it's mostly about manners and respect and advocacy.

For the background to this post, you should read yesterdays post >> click here<< it will open in a new window. 

This post will be shorter. I just have one thing to say, and it is to all those people who have been actively justifying their poor behaviour for the past 48 hours. 

To all of you who say "Booing Goodes isn't racist, I'm booing because.... 
{insert as many of the tired old reasons that are circulating here as you wish}
I'd like to know:

If your kid came home from school and said they were being picked on and had asked for the kids doing it to stop because their feeling were being hurt but the other kids wouldn't stop, would that be OK? 

If you went to work and people there abused you every time they walked past your desk citing a reason that you believed to be invalid, and refused to stop when you asked them to, would that be OK? 

How about if you made a mistake, and people yelled at you every time you took on a new task to remind you that they noticed your mistake a long time ago, and you asked them to stop but they decided continue yelling and to tell you you should stop whining and just suck it up, would that be OK? 

I'm guessing no. I'm guessing if it was you turning up to work and being booed, yelled at, called names, and generally abused you'd be pretty upset by that. You might even call the people involved bullies. And you'd be right. 

I'm guessing that if you decided to take a couple of days off to catch a break from the bullying and abuse, and people called you a sook, you'd feel like that was unfair. You might even consider quitting that job to get away from the stress. And many people would understand you doing that because turning up to work week after week and trying to carry on and ignore bullying takes its toll eventually, no matter who you are. 

So, to all of you vigorously defending your right to be an asshole from the safety of your anonymous seat in the stand and from behind your computer keyboard, I say this:

I don't care what you say your motivation is. I don't even care what your motivation actually is. It is impossible to convince bigots they are bigots, so I won't even try. 

But how about this? Your behaviour is hurting someone. He has said it is hurting him. He has asked for it to stop. If you choose to keep on with your behaviour, knowing it hurts, then you have bad manners, and show a lack of respect for other human beings. You are a bully. 

I see bullies a lot as I raise my Autistic children. These bullies seem to enjoy picking on people who stand out as a little bit different. The pleasure seems to increase if the person responds in an act of self advocacy. You are those people. You are just the same as the kids in the playground who call names and exclude from games while laughing and patting each other on the back. It is ugly in children and even uglier in adults. 

I regularly stand up for my children. I have to stand up for them to other kids who behave the same way you do. Sometimes I have to stand up for them to adults who behave the way you do. I have to stand up for them to systems that are based on the values you uphold with your callous and stubborn refusal to admit you might have been wrong. And I will stand up for Adam too. 

Stop being bullies. Sit down and watch the game with respect for those there to provide your afternoons entertainment. Cheer the good stuff. Save your boos for the true injustices in the world. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

AFL, Adam Goodes and acceptance of diversity in Australia

I'm going to do something I've never done before. Chances are I will never do this again. I am going to write about football. Australian Rules Football to be exact. This is unlikely to be a "popular" post, or even of interest to most of my regular readers, but I wanted to record my thoughts somewhere public.

As a matter of disclosure, I will say that I have been a fan of the Sydney Swans for a number of years. For the past few years my family has held a membership and we go to every home game they play. We like the sport, we like the team and we like Adam Goodes. As a matter of principal I will say that even if the issue I am going to write about today wasn't involving a member of my favourite team, I would still be angry about it.

Some background, in case anyone unfamiliar with what is happening is reading.
For some time now Adam Goodes, a key player in the Swans team, is noticeably booed by fans of opposition teams when he has possession of the ball during a game.

Booing is a part of the fan "culture" in AFL games, and is used as a way of protesting a bad play made, a poor umpire decision, or any behaviour the crowd deems unacceptable (an example would be if a tackle results in a player being knocked unconscious).

The discussion around the booing of Adam Goodes by the people who do it largely centres around their belief that Goodes is a "flog"- a colloquial term used to mean that someone is a lousy person for one reason or another. Some say it because they think he is rough or overly aggressive on the field. Some say it because they think he is a whiner. Some say it is because he is a bully; specifically that he bullied a teenaged girl. The situation came to a head a couple of months ago when, during the "Indigenous Round", Adam- an Indigenous man- celebrated scoring a goal with an Indigenous war cry dance some young Indigenous players had taught him. And, as a couple of major news outlets have stated, the country imploded over an imaginary spear. Since then, the booing has increased, and the discussion about racism in our nation has intensified.

I am not the first person to write about this, of course. In fact, I suspect this post would be fairly considered as arriving late to the party. So, I doubt I'll have anything new to add. But here I am. It bothers me that this is happening. Here is a man, who has been an amazing footy player since before my now 19 year old was 8 and loving cheering for Goodes. Back then he wasn't booed. So what changed?

Well, in the past 10 years, Adam Goodes has moved on from being "just" a footy player, and has become an advocate. He advocates for the right of Indigenous people in our country. He mentors young Indigenous people, future players in the AFL. He has entertained our sports fans for more than a decade with good strong football, but once he began to point out some of the privilege and prejudice that exists in our country, suddenly he is labelled a bad person.

That teenaged girl he "bullied"? What happened was he called her out for calling him an ape. From what I can tell from media reports the young lady phoned him later and apologised. Goodes accepted that apology by publicly acknowledging it and asking people to show the young lady support. But ever since there have been people who have attacked him for his reaction to being called an ape. Essentially, we have an Indigenous man who stood up for himself and has been vilified for it each time he turns up to work ever since.

The arguments that he is rough on the field? I can tell you now that his team mate Lance Franklin, who is also Indigenous, is more aggressive on field than Goodes is. He is not booed ever time he touches the ball. There have been many other (non Indigenous) players over the years known for their aggressive style, and to this day are considered heroes of the sport.

How about the "lousy person" argument? There are other sportspeople who are actually known criminals who receive more respectful treatment than Goodes does.

What we are really seeing here is not an objection to aggressive play of the game, or any personal failings as a bully. What we are seeing is exactly what journalist Waleed Aly identified. Adam Goodes has shown he is an Indigenous man who does know know his appropriate place in our society as part of a minority group. He challenges people on their prejudices, their racism, and they will not put up with that. He is not perfect- no one is. But Adam Goodes is being bullied, and the crowd is allowing and encouraging it. They will proudly boo him, shame him, until he retires, and they will justify it with all sorts of unjustifiable nonsense as they down their beers and celebrate 'Straya and its values of mateship.

I am pleased and cautiously hopeful to see the AFL leadership beginning to take a more noticeable stand on this following Lewis Jetta's show of solidarity over the weekend as he performed his own war cry dance. But I  don't think the booing is going to stop.

For all our self congratulatory back patting over how accepting and mate oriented and champions of the fair go we are here in Australia, we are incredibly racist and extremely intolerant of diversity. Just as Adam Goodes is howled down for advocating for Indigenous rights, so others are silenced when fighting for the rights of other minority groups. Our treatment of disabled students in schools, our attitudes to Asylum Seekers (people who are genuine refugees), our fear and hatred of Muslim people, our skepticism toward anything not considered "like us" overwhelmingly confirms that we do not like, or even tolerate, diversity. The booing of Adam Goodes is just the tip of the iceberg. The fact that it has been going on so long and is still justified by so many is something we should all be ashamed of.