RICHARD HINDS GREATER GOODES
NO wonder sport attaches itself to causes like mud to a footballer’s knees. It’s just so easy.
It’s easy because you are only expected to “celebrate’’ the cause to feel good about yourself. You don’t have to be confronted by any of those awkward truths that might make you actually think.
You can celebrate Women in League round by dressing up the players’ Mums and the octogenarian tuckshop lady for a lovely photo opportunity. Flowers for the girls!
But you don’t have to prove you’ve done anything to confront the incidences of domestic violence even in your own playing ranks.
You can launch an anti-homophobia campaign. But let’s not remind anyone that some of the players preaching the message from the big screens might still struggle to accept an openly gay player.
You can hold – as the AFL just did – an Indigenous Round during which you celebrate Aboriginal culture with dotpainted guernseys and elaborate ceremonies. But you don’t have to demonstrate how, if at all, this symbolic pageantry does anything to help indigenous people.
You certainly don’t want anyone to mention AFL clubs are still struggling to assimilate the indigenous players they pluck from remote regions. Or that in these communities, some believe the league has done little to repay them for what the indigenous stars have given the game.
Sit down and listen to the didgeridoo! Indigenous Round is a feel-good story.
Or it would have been if Adam Goodes (pictured) hadn’t performed a war dance that wasn’t officially vetted by Indigenous Round Inc. The same way Goodes didn’t ask permission to protest about being called an “ape’’ by an ignorant girl. The same way he used the Australian of the Year’s lectern to deliver difficult and complex messages instead of holding our hands.
The reaction of some to Goodes’ Friday night jig has been pitiably predictable. Particularly from those who twisted Goodes’ war dance, and the crowd’s recent reaction to him, to fit long-held agendas.
Equally predictable were the delusional claims that Goodes is booed because he stages for free kicks or that the AFL’s two-time “fairest and best’’ is a dirty player. Goodes is booed because he refuses to play on our terms. Not the game itself, but the political game the AFL willingly enters by attaching itself to the indigenous cause.
Goodes is booed because, according to the official Indigenous Round script, he is sup- posed to be pitifully grateful for the opportunity he has been given, which in turn makes us feel good about ourselves for “giving’’ it to him. Regardless of what we have done for the wider good of indigenous people.
Goodes is booed because he continues to express the hurt and anger indigenous people feel because of the damage inflicted upon their ancestors and, by extension, them. And that makes us feel a bit uncomfortable, doesn’t it?
Goodes said his war dance was merely a playful tribute. But such a thoughtful man must have been aware that it
email@example.com would prompt a strong reaction.
But so what if Goodes’ war dance was a premeditated attempt to express his pride and defiance? Are we only capable of accepting anodyne expressions of indigenous culture that cater to our own sensibilities? Uluru tea towel anyone?
Hopefully, in time, Goodes’ gestures will be seen as the acts of a man refusing to accept someone else’s definition of how an indigenous person should act.
And hopefully when sport purports to support a cause, it will champion it in a meaningful way. Not simply to make us feel better about ourselves.