AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has penned an open letter to fans, imploring them to lead the way and put an end to the relentless booing of Adam Goodes.
McLachlan has asked fans to lead by example to stop the behaviour.
“Supporters are the true custodians of the game, and have always ultimately decided what is the right or wrong way to behave, both on the field and off it,” McLachlan wrote on Friday on the AFL website.
“Whether you agree or not, the booing of Adam Goodes is perceived by him and many others as being racially motivated and that’s hurting us all.
“That is all we need to know.”
He said he couldn’t tell fans how to behave but they had always decided what was the right and wrong way to behave both on and off the field, citing the minute silence of the 90,000 that attend Anzac Day as an example.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also joined a groundswell of support for Goodes after the Sydney star withdrew from this Saturday’s game against Adelaide at the SCG as he struggles with the constant abuse.
The saga came to a head when the Swans played West Coast last Sunday and it has sharply divided national opinion through the week.
At the heart of heated debate has been whether the booing of the two-time Brownlow Medallist is racist and what can done about it.
“The last thing we want in Australia is anything that smacks of racism,” Mr Abbott told radio 2SM on Friday.
“He is a good bloke, and I hope he will be treated with civility and dignity.”
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon went further, saying there was no longer an ambiguity about the issue.
“If you continue to boo Adam Goodes, well, you’re a racist and you’re a bigot,” Lyon said.
McLachlan added Goodes had given extraordinary service to the sport and deserved better.
“Adam is hurting, as are his family and close friends, and the game we love is hurting,” McLachlan said.
“As it has always been, it is up to us, as supporters, to respond.
“It’s Australia’s game and always will be and I have no doubt supporters will follow the lead of players and coaches who acknowledge Adam Goodes as one of our great champions, and a man who commands respect.”
Relentless booing of Goodes from fans of rival clubs prompted Sydney to give their former captain indefinite leave as he’s shaken by what the club says is a disgraceful reaction to his outspokenness on race matters.
Goodes could be back for next weekend’s away game against Geelong.
There will be widespread gestures of support for Goodes this weekend across the AFL and in other sports.
Richmond and the Western Bulldogs are wearing their indigenous jerseys this week, while Aboriginal players from Carlton and North Melbourne will join the captains at the centre circle for the coin toss on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium.
NRL indigenous stars Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis plan to perform war dances if they score a try in their matches.
And a replica of Goodes’ No.37 guernsey will be on display at the V8 Supercars event this weekend in Ipswich, Queensland.