News that AFL star Adam Goodes is considering early retirement following racially charged booing from crowds has been met with pleas for him to stay on and play on.
AFL players and officials rallied around the Sydney player on Wednesday and were joined by political leaders in condemning the continuous booing directed at him by opposition supporters this season.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews slammed the behaviour as disgusting.
“People who are booing Adam Goodes, many of them are nothing more than racists,” Mr Andrews said.
“They’re booing him because they have no respect for him and no regard for him as an Aboriginal man and that is shameful. I am disgusted by that behaviour.”
Mr Andrews said it would be “a great tragedy” if Goodes’s career was ended because of the booing. Federal Labor senator Nova Peris, an indigenous woman and Olympic gold medallist, said people booing Goodes were doing so because he had spoken out on indigenous issues and taken action to stop racism.
“He’s become a target. There are a significant amount of other Aboriginal athletes or footy players that are not subjected to the constant mocking, the criticism and the booing and the hissing, but it’s because Adam has spoken out,” Senator Peris told ABC radio.
Senator Peris’s colleague, Labor MP Richard Marles, said it would be tragic if Goodes was booed out of his career.
Some commentators defended the booing as not racist but instead a response to Goodes’s on-field actions, including his defiant “war dance” at Carlton fans in May and his pointing out a 13-year-old girl who yelled racist abuse at him during a 2013 game.
Radio 2GB host Alan Jones, speaking on morning TV, said people booed because they didn’t like Goodes, who was “always a victim”, while some rival supporters claim the dual Brownlow medallist is booed because he stages for free kicks and complains to umpires.
Five-time Hawthorn premiership player and now commentator Dermott Brereton said earlier this week Goodes could consider changing his on-field behaviour.
“Adam Goodes would do well to look at what he’s done bad or good or indifferent and work out what he can do to change that,” Brereton told the Herald-Sun.
Swans chief executive Andrew Ireland said on Wednesday Goodes won’t play this week against Adelaide and would take extended time away from the game following the constant booing in the match against West Coast in Perth on Sunday, and at other matches this season.
One West Coast fan was ejected from the ground for yelling “get back to the zoo”.
“Adam is sick and tired of this behaviour. It has been happening for too long and it has taken its toll,” Mr Ireland said.
Reports emerged on Wednesday that 35-year-old Goodes, who is likely playing his last season, may quit immediately.
NSW Premier Mike Baird said he hoped Goodes would play on, while South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill had urged him to play against Adelaide on Saturday.
“I’m confident Crows fans will treat you with respect this weekend and you’re welcome in SA anytime,” Mr Weatherill said in a tweet before it was announced Goodes would not play.
Federal government frontbencher Jamie Briggs sought to play down the matter, saying it was a football issue and not an indigenous one.