Aussie rules club produces video to tackle racism

PERTH, Australia (AP) — An Australian rules team has taken a stand against racist abuse of players by producing a video that features indigenous leaders at the club explaining why derogatory terms are hurtful to the people being vilified.

The West Coast Eagles launched their “When will it end?” campaign after young player Liam Ryan was targeted by trolls on social media following an Australian Football League game on the weekend.

The Perth-based Eagles said the treatment of Ryan wasn’t isolated, and listed indigenous players from other clubs who’d been abused by “keyboard cowards” in the last month.

Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes, who has Aboriginal heritage and has won an Australian of the Year honor, has been a high-profile target of racist slurs throughout his long and decorated career.

Phil Narkle, a foundation player when the Eagles joined the national league in 1987 and an elder of the local Noongar people, fronts the Eagles’ video along with the club’s youth development coach, Chance Bateman.

“We are united at this club and we do not accept or tolerate racism,” Narkle, the first indigenous liaison officer appointed to any club in the AFL, says at the start of the video. “When will this end?”

The two men are backed by Eagles head coach Adam Simpson and players.

Bateman, who is from Western Australia but spent most of his playing career at Melbourne-based Hawthorn, said the racist terms were particularly insulting because of Australia’s history.

The British established colonies in Australia in the late 1700s after declaring it “terra nullius” — owned by no one — despite the presence of Aboriginal people on the island continent for tens of thousands of years.

“For many, the term monkey, or ape, can be seen as just name calling. But for Aboriginal people, it cuts much, much deeper than that,” Bateman said. “It is a throw-back to early settlement, when this land was settled under terra nullius — or no man’s land. The reason for that is because Aboriginal people were not thought of as human beings. We were thought of as a sub-human species. And that decision to settle the land under those terms triggered some of the most horrific, degrading and inhumane treatment to our men, women, children and our babies.”

The aim of the campaign is to ensure ignorance is no excuse for racism, and the Eagles want to spread the message on the platforms where the recent vilification has been most prevalent.

“So what we’d like to do is ask your support, so that whenever you hear that these players need to harden up and it’s just name calling, we hope that you can educate others on why the term is so offensive to our people,” Bateman said.

Other AFL clubs, including the Swans and Melbourne-based St. Kilda , responded with their support for the Eagles with messages such as “Enough is enough. We’re with you.”

The AFL issued a statement on Tuesday saying its investigation into Ryan’s case had resulted in a two-year suspension for a supporter of the Richmond club who has posted on social media.

Tanya Hosch, the AFL manager for inclusion and social policy, said the league would continue to identify people responsible for racist comments and work with clubs to have them banned, and would also report cases to the police for investigation.