SYDNEY: Indigenous Australian Rules footballer Eddie Betts has urged renewed efforts to stamp out racism after being targeted by “disgusting” abuse on the very weekend teams united in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
The Carlton forward, who has had a banana thrown at him in the past, late Sunday outed a social media troll who posted a tweet referencing Betts while showing a picture of a monkey.
“If at any time anyone is wondering why we work so hard to bring attention to the importance of stamping out racism, this is it,” said the 33-year-old, who highlighted the abuse on his Instagram page.
“If ever there was a time where our focus on this needs to continue more than ever, it’s now. To ignore it is to be part of the problem, to call it out is to be part of the solution.”
His decision to draw attention to the abuse sparked rousing support from fellow players and the wider Australian community who rallied around him.
“First week back and our indigenous players are already being vilified,” said Australian Football League Player’s Association boss Paul Walsh.
“This post is abhorrent and disgusting and so sad. There’s no place in society for racism.”
Olympic gold medallist Nova Peris, also an indigenous athlete, demanded the AFL “come down hard” on the culprit.
“How much has Eddie Betts got to cop?” she said.
The sport has been blighted in the past by racism, with a fan accused of abusing Betts banned in 2017.
It followed the retirement from the AFL in 2015 of Adam Goodes, one of Australia’s most high-profile indigenous sportsmen who was subjected to repeated booing, widely believed to be racially-motivated.
Aussie Rules – played with a distinctive oval ball, similar to Ireland’s Gaelic football – boosts a host of indigenous stars.
It resumed its season late last week after a lengthy Covid-19-enforced shutdown.
Players from across the AFL, including Betts, united in taking a knee ahead of their games in support of the worldwide cause against systemic racism, which has gained huge traction following the death of George Floyd in the US.