AFL Players’ Association backs calls for club-by-club review following Hawthorn racism allegations | AFL

The AFL Players’ Association has backed calls for a club-by-club review following Hawthorn’s allegations of racism, saying the league “clearly has a problem with the treatment of First Nations and multicultural players”.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan on Thursday left the door open for a broader review of the treatment of First Nations players, following calls from Eddie Betts for a league-wide review.

Betts said the allegations of racism at Hawthorn, revealed by the ABC this week, could “happen at any football club” and that he believed “every football club should do a review”.

Asked about Betts’ comments, McLachlan told the ABC that the sport should “explore every opportunity to ensure there is a safe environment” for players.

AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh said he supported Betts’ suggestion of a club-by-club review.

“While respecting the process that will take place around the Hawthorn report, what is clear is that the AFL industry has a problem with the treatment of First Nations and multicultural players. These are fundamentally human rights issues,” he said.

“To move forward, the industry must understand, recognize and seek to repair the problems of the past.”

AFLPA is in the final stages of developing a human rights framework for its activities. Marsh said once this process is complete, he will push for the industry to adopt a similar model.

“As part of this process, we will address the problems of the past to enable a better future,” he said.

McLachlan spoke to senior Indigenous players on a Wednesday night call, including Betts, Shaun Burgoyne, Shane Edwards, Steven May and Neville Jetta.

He had previously announced an independent external panel – which has yet to be named – that would investigate Hawthorn’s allegations, which he described as “difficult, heartbreaking and disturbing”. This review was expected to take six to eight weeks.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney also spoke to McLachlan. Burney told the ABC on Thursday morning that she understood the AFL was considering a broader examination of racism in sport.

“I spoke with Gillon McLachlan and [general manager of inclusion at the AFL] They and Tanya Hosch have undertaken to keep me updated on the investigation that Gillon McLachlan announced yesterday,” she said.

“The point you make on a broader review, I won’t speak for the AFL, but I understand it’s a consideration for the future.”

Burney said the racism was not limited to the AFL. She urged other sports to confront their own mistreatment of Indigenous players.

“I don’t think it’s just the AFL, I think every sports club needs to look at what they do and how they address issues of racism, how they make their environment more inclusive and, in particular, how they work with the families of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players,” she said.

She described the allegations of forced separation of Indigenous players from their families as “sickening”.

“Sport is a mirror of society, it shows the brave and wonderful things, but it also shows the ugly side of things, like racism,” she said. “What these players are saying is shocking, it’s sickening. Full stop.”

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