Adam Goodes called a halt when he realised teammates were being affected by the relentless crowd booing that follows him.
A close friend of Goodes, former Sydney teammate Tadhg Kennelly said on Thursday the past few months had been hard on the former Australian of the Year.
But it was concern for his teammates that ultimately pushed dual Brownlow Medallist Goodes to the point where he’s now on indefinite leave as he ponders whether to play on.
It came to a head when younger teammate Lewis Jetta felt compelled to show his support for Goodes by imitating his previous spear-throwing gesture toward booing sections of the West Coast crowd in Perth last weekend.
“I think once he saw the reaction from his teammates and Lewis Jetta, he’s gone `well, it’s taken its toll on some of my teammates as well, I’ve got to sit back here’,” Kennelly told the Nine Network on Thursday.
“There’s only so much an individual can put up with … very few people have asked `How is Adam?’
“He’s just a footballer yes, but at the end of the day he’s still got feelings and he’s got a lot of emotions, and there’s a lot going through his head at the minute.”
Goodes has received widespread support from both the AFL and wider sporting communities, with many agreeing the booing is racially motivated due to Goodes’ outspokenness on racism.
Critics have claimed he should tone down.
Kennelly panned those latter opinions as “embarrassing” for Australia.
“We thought we were past this … it’s raised its head again, and I think we’d be naive to put our heads in the sand and think it’s not racist,” he said.
“That’s why he’s getting such overwhelming support, because this is an all-time legend of our game and he hasn’t got a whole lot left in him.
“Let him enjoy the game for what it is. He just wants to play football … he doesn’t need to be putting up with this.
“Yes he’s got an opinion, but so has everybody else.
“If you start booing now after what’s happened in the past 48 hours or eight weeks, well I think you’re a bigot … you’re giving racism a voice.”