This picture shows the most infamous and shameful moments in Australian sport. Adam Goodes was one of the brightest stars in Aussie rules football, co-captaining the Sydney Swans to league and championship glory. The football field was the one place, he believed, that his race as an indigenous member of society didn’t matter. But that changed on 24 May 2013 when he stopped play to call out racist abuse directed at him.
Sport brings out the best and worst of people. The highs are euphoric – but depending on your team – infrequent and fleeting. Despite fans following local, national or international teams from birth to death and pledging ever-lasting loyalty, stadia can become bubbling cauldrons of exaggerated emotion, for better or worse. Feelings that usually sit beneath the surface day-to-day are exposed like the tip of an iceberg, betraying a much deeper problem existing in society.
After standing up against racism, Goodes was named Australian of the Year in 2014, a prestigious title that’s been awarded to Nobel-Prize winners, divers that recused the Thai cave kids and Paul Hogan at the height of Crocodile Dundee mania. In his acceptance speech he promised: “racism stops with me”. The last thing he expected was for abuse to not just continue but to build and get worse week after week, documented in a new film The Australian Dream.
Speaking to The Big Issue from Sydney, Goodes reflects on the period. “Every time I went to perform my job, I was being booed. And people knew how that booing made me feel and they continued to do that. I was just rocking up doing something I had grown a real passion for. In the end, going to work with something that I really hated and really didn’t want to be part of.”
When a crowd comes together is it just mindless mob mentality or is it a widely held belief being revealed?