This week is Indigenous Round in the AFL, where games are spent acknowledging the remarkable contribution Aboriginals have made to our national game.
While many discussions are being had, a transparent contradiction between the AFL’s states belief in equality and Aboriginal exceptionalism, is seldom raised.
Every year, the AFL jumps on every single ‘equality’ cause it can find, from stamping out perceived racism, to promoting LGBTQIA issues, Women’s Round, Multicultural Round, and Indigenous Round. This AFL emphasis on equality was reflected by Richmond Football Club last year, who called on Australia to close the ‘gap’ on Indigenous incarceration.
Although Indigenous Round is partially used to promote an equality of sorts, it carries another compelling, explicit message, that is incompatible with the former. When Aboriginals are 3 % of the Australian population, but make up 10 % of AFL lists, what does this say about equality? Renowned past Aboriginal player Adam Goodes had a provocative answer to this; “I know that when Aborigines play Australian Football with a clear mind and total focus, we are born to play it.”
Whilst in context, Goodes implausibly argued Aboriginal skills as evidence they pioneered the modern game, his stand alone message was very clear: Aboriginals are better at football, because they are genetically predisposed to doing so. Anyone who has spent significant time watching AFL and observing the unique deft touch, instincts and skill set of Lance Franklin, Cyril Rioli, Lewis Jetta, Stephen Hill, Stephen Motlop among many others, would agree.
And yet these comments were made to the behest of some, including sports historian Gillian Hibbins who denounced Goodes as racist; “If you define racism as believing a race is superior in something, this is basically what he [Goodes] was doing.”
If an organisation is to be sincere, fair and consistent, one of the following explanations must ensue among AFL ranks. Either all humans are comprised of the same basic material, or they are fundamentally different, with some holding advantages in particular areas, as Aboriginals observably do in Australian Rules Football.
It can only be one, or the other. For these 2 beliefs are as irreconcilable as mixing water with oil.