Collingwood Football Club and Racism

Nicky WinmarMy team Collingwood has had an interesting involvement the modern social history of racism. At around the time of Pauline Hanson I used to argue that, though all the focus was on Pauline’s contribution to making Australia more racist, we were in fact becoming dramatically less so. At the grass roots it seemed to me that, at least in the big cities, things like the AFL code against racism offered a much more optimistic perspective.

The AFL code of conduct on racism grew out of a football match between Collingwood and St Kilda where, in the face of racist taunts from the Collingwood crowd, Aboriginal player Nicky Winmar would lift his jumper and point to his skin and gesture to the Collingwood outer at Victoria Park that it was their problem not his.

The hapless Collingwood Club President Colin Allan McAlister said that Aboriginal people would do much better for themselves as long as they conducted themselves like white people. Hmmm . . . . Dear oh dear!

I may well be wrong, but my impression of McAlister’s subsequent response was that he truly had a moment of revelation in which he realised how wrong he had been to say what he had said. (I’ve tried to get a good record of it on Google and I’m surprised I can’t get it quickly, but I could only find the story I linked to above).

There followed what seemed to me to be a genuine apology and McAlister’s participation in the establishment of the annual game between an aboriginal side and a non-aboriginal side. (A ‘black v white’ game seemed like something of a double edged sword, particularly give how aggressively AFL is played, but it seems to have been a success.)

Two years after Winmar’s stand the great Aboriginal player for Essendon, Michael Long complained about racial abuse from St Kilda’s Damian Monkhorst and the AFL code of conduct on racism was brought in to great effect. Monkhorst is proud of his role in bringing it in! It has surely done much to make racism of both the casual and the hateful kind much less acceptable right through the mainstream of our society. It is a great thing. That picture of Winmar which started it all off must surely be one of the great pictures of the 1990s.

In the last year or so I’ve discovered two other facts of interest. I recall when I was a kid, Carlton’s Aboriginal half forward flanker Syd Jackson was reported for striking Collingwood half back flanker Lee Adamson. He told the Tribunal that Adamson taunted him with racial abuse. Though players rarely ‘dob’ each other in, and in fact often try to get those who have assailed them off, Adamson denied the claim. I think the Tribunal believed Jackson and he got off with a reprimand. I was pretty sure that Jackson was telling the truth – racial taunts were pretty standard. Adamson was a tough customer. But many years later, Jackson admitted that there was no racial taunt.

Then last weekend in the Age I read of a time eight years before Nicky Winmar’s stand.

As Jimmy Krakouer, near right, the mercurial North rover, prepared for the first bounce, Collingwood ruckman David Cloke ran by, tapped his head and delivered a message.

What he said was surprising given the culture of the time . . . . Cloke told Krakouer he could not control what was said from the other side of the fence, but if any Collingwood players resorted to racial abuse, Krakouer should tell him and he would deal with it.

Now 8 percent of AFL players are Aboriginal. I’ve been studiously trying to avoid the word while writing this. Its a cliche alright, but all those Aboriginal players I mentioned – they were mercurial! Fast, strong, and nimble as quicksliver. And – like Winmar’s defiance that day – a joy to behold.

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13 Responses to Collingwood Football Club and Racism

  1. wbb says:

    Yes it was a sight to behold. And an iconic photograph today.

    I think that the determined strides the AFL has made in the intervening years to stamp out racial taunts have been a great success. I doubt however that there is much carry over to the general problem of racism in wider society.

    I believe that coming from such a low base, that racism is less of a problem today than it was, But there is a long way to go.

    Kevin Sheedy should be given some credit too for his work in proactively addressing the issue. (Not that he hasn’t been richly rewarded for it on the field, but that’s beside the point nad not why he did it.)

  2. meika says:

    Michael Long Michael Long
    is he the michael long I went to school with

    can no one tell me?

  3. jen says:

    We’d just moved here and I’d enrolled in an Aboriginal ya di da anthropology unit. The photo hit my tutorial group like a tonne of bricks. Bet it wouldn’t hit like that now. Not even the most serious young insect would be bowled over by it.

    I agree it is a signal cultural shift and the One Nation was another symptom of imbalance and immaturity in our national consiousness.

    Australia is not like that anymore, it’s better, more mature.

    Or maybe it is me. One year intense working outbush up here and two years working farms in central NSW and Queensland has given this Melbourne woman freedom from warm fuzzy fakery in race relations. And freedom from stupid dumb hardline racism of the kind I experienced being played out last night.

    Get this one.
    Jes my daughter, who has a dog, wanders around this neighbourhood, pretty much at will. The beach is a couple of 100 yards away and from there, it’s bike path and park and coastline and the Beachfront Hotel. Half of Darwin is down there at sunset.

    So Jes and her friend Em went to walk the dog. They had to be back by 6pm. At 5.30 no sign – bloody typical, we’re thinking as we go looking. I find them on the beach wet and covered in sand, pretending to be dalmatians at about 6pm. By 6.10 Em’s mum is seething and frantic as only a mother who fears the worst can be. Me, I’m not that worried, well, not worried at all, but I have sympathy for the woman.
    That sympathy evaporates and becomes rage when she tells me
    ‘I told Emily not to go walking on the street around here, because I know that Jessy does and there are itinerants down there (read drunk, black, child molesters and abductors) .
    Jen: You should have told ME that! She said something about sore knees when I told them to go down the beach earlier in the day. So they didn’t go. Then later they decided to and I though mmm sore knees, they won’t go far.
    Mother: Ahh she was embarrassed to tell you.
    Jen: (thinking) That’s bcause she is not an arrogant racist cockhead. And I am not happy you are.

    So, Jes and Em made a dramatic and tearful farewell promising to call each other even if they were never allowed to play again.

    Pollyanna principle.
    Jes may yet learn there is a value in knowing the time.
    Parish and I got to play tennis, walk along the beach and cycle in the sunset while performing serious guard(ian) duty.

  4. yobbo says:

    You think it’s racist to not want your daughter to play in area filled with homeless drunks? Or did the other woman say more than you related here?

  5. Pedant says:

    Saying someone is “mercurial” is not being very complimentary in the traditional definition of the word. It means inconsistent, up-and-down, quick to change. Not ideal qualities in a footballer.

  6. Thx Pedant. On Googling the word, I guess you’re right. I’m going for the second definition I guess.

    # erratic: liable to sudden unpredictable change; “erratic behavior”; “fickle weather”; “mercurial twists of temperament”; “a quicksilver character, cool and willful at one moment, utterly fragile the next”

    # relating to or having characteristics (eloquence, shrewdness, swiftness, thievishness) attributed to the god Mercury; “more than Mercurial thievishness”

    But pardon my ignorance – I was thinking that the word related to the substance mercury or quicksilver.

  7. Ken Parish says:

    Yobbo

    We’re talking about a beachfront area filled with families having picnics, joggers, people walking dogs, cyclists etc. In addition, there are often small groups of Aboriginal “itinerants” sitting and drinking under the trees adjacent to the beach. Police and Night Patrol vehicles drive by frequently and remove anyone who looks even remotely likely to become troublesome. It might be sensible to be concerned about one’s child if he/she was out and about unsupervised well after nightfall, because the joggers, picnickers etc have then gone home. But Jen was talking about a time long before that. It doesn’t start getting properly dark in Darwin (even now) until 7pm or so.

    Maybe a charitable characterisation of this mother’s response (and instructions to her child, which she didn’t bother to mention to either Jen or me) would be “grossly excessively protective”, although it’s difficult to ascribe that over-protectiveness to anything other than racism given the location, circumstances and proximity to our home. Sadly, she’s likely eventually to imbue her child with her own narrow-minded racism and fearfulness. Her younger child is autistic, which may partly explain her over-protectiveness, but the sad thing is the effect it’s likely to have (and is already having) on her older daughter.

  8. pedant says:

    Hehe. Thievishness? So all Aboriginal football players are light-fingered, eh? It’s racism, I tell you!

    Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

    Incidentally, the more common usage of the word ‘mercurial’ is related to mercury – in a thermometer. Always up and down. :)

  9. blank says:

    ‘cockhead’!!
    So racism is indefensible, but anti-male sexism is ok? Ever use the c–t word?

    But why do you assume that it was purely the “blackness” of the itinerants which so upset the mother?

    At a guess, I’d say that most of the 8% “Aboriginal” AFL players actually have mixed ancesty, but somehow, only one strand is recognised.

    In “To Sir, with Love”, E.R. Braithwaite wonders why it’s always “A black child with a white parenent” and never “A while child with a black parent”. (a rough quote)

    E.R. Braithwaite saw that as being racist.

  10. jen says:

    Blank

    I swear, I’ll never swear again after this. To my way of thinking, a cockhead is someone who is being stupid, a cunt on the other hand, is someone who is being intentionally nasty. It is not a gender situation.

    Further I don’t understand why you put gender politics and racist politics in the same basket. One does not preclude the other, and the practice of sexism and not racism still makes you a sexist. You don’t have to be both or neither to avoid the grand title hypocrite.

    Also I made it pretty clear that it was the drunken blackness and child molesting and abducting characteristics of the itinerants that bothered this particular parent.

    The black bit is a mere quarter of the equation.

    What bothers me is that the drunks in the pub are drinking just the same as the ones across the road in the grass. Yet the ones in the grass are the one’s she is afraid of.
    Question:Why?
    Answer:They are Aboriginal or they are whitefellas prepared to associate with Aboriginal people who are sitting down on the foreshore drinking.
    Either way it’s racism.

  11. blank says:

    Why is the mother not afraid of the drunks in the pub?

    Answer: If the child molesting and abducting black, (white or brindle) drunks are in the pub, then they are in the pub,
    not in the grass where they will have access to the child of an overprotective mother.

  12. jen says:

    I’m not sure if you know the area, so I don’t know whether or not you are being ingenuous or facetious.

    I allow my daughter free movement through the pub, the carpark, and the foreshore throughout the day. I am not a big risk taker and the neighborhood is small. When we were looking for the girls I met two people I know and asked them to look out for the kids. I also asked a group of ‘itinerants’ if they had seen 2 young girls. At sunset the bike path is crowded with people which would make it difficult for anyone to steal children without being noticed. Hence the ‘itinerants’ and people on the path are possibly more helpful when children have got lost in their own world than the people inside the walls of the pub, and that excludes anyone in the bottleshop (who know jes) or the families (itinerants) waiting for cabs on the pub lawn.
    Everyone around here is black white and brindle, and everyone has different agendas, itinerant or no. That is what makes this mother’s remarks so narrow and stupid.

  13. paul says:

    Collingwood must have KKK uniforms hidden somewhere in the boardroom – now Eddie Maguire – unbelievable! – notice how the mainstream media has amnesia in linking Alan’s former comments to the current events – must be something about protecting the “brand”

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