Sam Newman: stars ‘intimidated’ into protesting
The AFL is back with a bang, having used the much-anticipated return of the sport to show the sport's support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Protests have taken place around the world over the past couple of weeks following the death of George Floyd when a police officer knelt on his neck.
The horrific scenes led to marches across the world with Australian protests also against indigenous deaths in custody.
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With the AFL back after 81 days, the players showed their support for the moment before the first bounce.
Richmond and Collingwood players ran out on to the MCG for pre-match warm-ups wearing black T-shirts that did not feature any markings, signage or sponsorship.
Before the first toss, the players and officials came together, taking a knee together around the centre circle.
A statement was also read out about why the players decided to kneel before the game.
"The players want us to understand why they have chosen to do this, tonight's gesture is one of support, unity and respect driven by the playing group," the statement read.
"We stand in solidarity with our indigenous brothers and sisters for all people of colour. There is no place for racism. The knee is an expression of that support, we see strength in diversity, it makes us better as a football club and as a community.
"We will be there for each other always, especially at a time when many are impacted by what is going on around the world. We will continue to learn and walk this journey together."
It is expected the league's other 16 clubs will display similar shows of unity during the weekend's remaining eight games.
However, the gesture didn't please everyone.
Geelong legend and former Footy Show panellist Sam Newman suggested players might have been "intimidated" into protesting.
"How long before we stop being intimidated into nodding in agreement and question the REAL motives. The game may be incidental," he wrote on Twitter about players taking a knee.
Newman added: "Division, conflict, fury, rage, angst, anarchy, disruption, group guilt, group shaming, acquiescence. Don't include EVERYONE in the mob mentality, please. AFL is sport!!"
You only had to check out the replies to Newman's first tweet to see he has plenty of supporters who aren't comfortable with sport and politics mixing.
Despite his angst, there were plenty of fans who loved the protest.
There was also plenty of support behind the gesture before the game.
"Certainly both our clubs are endorsing and supportive of our players doing that and they'll do that just before the bounce. We strongly support them doing so," Magpies chief executive Mark Anderson told ABC Radio.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said "racism needs to be stamped out". "It is an important issue for our players, for our clubs and for the AFL," he told Sunrise.
A number of other AFL clubs, including Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Melbourne and Brisbane, have already posted photos and messages on social media in support of the worldwide movement.
Bulldogs defender Jason Johannisen, who spent the first eight years of his life in South Africa, declared he was "done doing nothing".
"All I ask for you to do is simply, with an open heart, just listen and understand what people of colour have been through," the 2016 Norm Smith medallist wrote on social media.
AFL Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield said footballers felt a responsibility for the support not to be "tokenistic".
"I think it's being there for them (AFL's indigenous players), that they're comfortable with everything that's happening but also how can we improve it?" the Geelong superstar told reporters.
"How can it be something more than that, that's ongoing and we facilitate and really drive real change within all Australians."
- with AAP
Great work @Richmond_FC @CollingwoodFC @AFL - important way to start the game tonight 👏🏉#AFLPiesTigers #AFL #IndigenousLivesMatter #BlackLivesMatter #blacklivesmatteraustralia @tanyahosch @AlliPlaya pic.twitter.com/ozFNFoxFtn— sam mostyn (@sammostyn) June 11, 2020