A 13 year old heckler was escorted from a football stadium after she directed a racist remark towards one of the players.
An Australian rules footballer has received praise for his stoic but stern reaction to a heckler who, at this past weekend’s match, shouted out a “racist” remark at him as his team was about to win the match.
Sydney Swans star forward Adam Goodes is an Aboriginal Australian. As the final moments of a game against rival Collingwood dwindled down, he was called an “ape” by a young female spectator as he ran past her seated in the front row. As soon as he heard the epithet, Goodes turned around, pointed her out to security, and had her escorted from the Melbourne arena.
Considering that the match was to have specifically been a celebration of indigenous players the girl's behavior was sadly ironic. The weekend ends with National Sorry Day which acknowledges the historical mistreatment of aboriginal peoples.
The timing could not have been worse. It was meant to be the weekend when the AFL celebrated the contribution of indigenous athletes to the game; when rugby union legend Mark Ella urged other football codes to emulate Aussie Rules participation rate of 11%.
Goodes was shaken up, especially because the match was meant to be a celebration of Indigenous players.
"To come to the boundary line and hear a 13 year old girl call me an 'ape', and it's not the first time on a footy field that I've been referred to as a 'monkey' or an 'ape', it was shattering," he told the ABC.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called his response "something we can look up to."
"His words and actions today displayed the highest levels of respect and fairness - qualities he carries on and off the field," she said, according to the Herald Sun.
Major props to Goode for his bravery for calling out the girl yet dealing with it in a way that allowed it to be a valuable lesson. The girl later called Goode and apologized.
"It's not her fault, she's 13, she's still so innocent, I don't put any blame on her," he said. "Unfortunately it's what she hears, in the environment she's grown up in that has made her think that it's OK to call people names."
A long-time role model for his club, his code and his people, Goodes was similarly “shattered, heartbroken, gutted”, paused only long enough to identify the girl, before leaving the field of play. So upset by the remark was he, that he did not join celebrations of a famous Swans victory.In a post game interview Goode said the incident reminded him of high school when he was bullied and called names for his appearance but he did not stand up for himself then. He said, last night "I'm a lot more proud about who I am, my culture, last night I decided to stand up and I'll continue to stand up because racism has no place in the industry or society. Hopefully anyone who's been name-called or verbally abused can stand up for themselves after seeing what happened last night".
Within hours, the girl [...] had apologised personally for the slur, saying she “did not mean it in a racist way”, did not understand the word’s significance for indigenous people.
With characteristic good grace, Goodes accepted the apology, declined to press charges and urged family, friends and social-media critics to support the girl. Though, he confessed he was still left wondering how such a thing could happen.