Sport, racial vilification, casually racist gaffes, calling out slurs and apologies

I haven’t been paying attention to all the details of who said what about Adam Goodes since the on-field incident last week, but I’m pleasantly surprised to see a substantive discussion of the issue as part of ABC-Breakfast’s reporting, very pleasantly surprised that the AFL has stepped up and cited Eddie Everywhere for racial vilification, and that he’s about to meet the Collingwood board to discuss whether he should resign as club president.

I’m even more pleasantly surprised to see that McGuire has moved beyond his initial denial that he had racially vilified Goodes because of his non-malicious intent (just a gaffe), to acknowledging that vilification occurs regardless of intent and offering a proper apology to Goodes in private, to club supporters via email and to the public generally in print and on air.

In his email, McGuire offered apologies “particularly to our indigenous and ethnic supporter groups. Regardless of my intentions, I acknowledge that the comments referring to Adam were offensive and for that I am truly sorry. It was thoughtless but absolutely said without malice”.

I don’t have a direct quote from a transcript, but there was a clip of McGuire on TV where he made a point of explaining on mass media his understanding that how the racist remark slipped out without him even realising in the moment that he was indeed uttering a racist remark is precisely part of the problem – that the hurt inflicted remains no matter how “offhand”, “thoughtless” or “a simple mistake” the utterance may have been or how non-racist the utterer means/wants to be.  His clear commitment to communicating that point (which in my experience is a difficult one to convey persuasively when challenging someone on a marginalising remark/slur) has been a tremendously pleasant surprise.

McGuire has a long history of blurting offensive remarks, which quite a few helpful folks have listed around the web in the last few days .  Perhaps that long history of criticism for those blurts has finally taught him what a proper apology needs to be. Compare and contrast the typical  gutless not-pology from Triple M on whose football program McGuire made the vilifying remark  (emphasis added):

Triple M acknowledged McGuire’s comments could have been interpreted as racist and apologised to any listeners who were offended.

They’ve carefully avoided putting an “if” in there, but it’s hardly whole-hearted, is it? FFS Triple M, c’mon: even Eddie McGuire knows how to do it properly!

Good on Goodes for standing up to unacceptable racial vilification on the field in the first place, and good on fellow player Harry O’Brien for standing up further in response to McGuire’s on-air extension of that vilification. This is a long overdue national conversation that we need to be having.

P.S. Peter Fitzsimon’s op-ed on the original Goodes incident is an important contribution to the discussion on racism too. Especially since there’s a bunch of clots  trying to use the “sticks and stones” cliche to tell all the bleeding hearts why they should just STFU.

xkcd webcomic #1216: Sticks and Stones

Panel 1:
Small person: Did you hear what he said about me?
Large person: Well remember: sticks and stones can break my bones, but words…
Panel 2:
Small person: …can make someone else feel happy or sad, which is literally the only thing that matters in this stupid world?
Panel 3:
Small person and Large person stare at each other.
Panel 4:
Small person: Right?
Large person: Well, the world isn’t that bad.
Small Person: Explain the line about sticks and stones.
Large Person: …OK, maybe it’s kinda horrific.
Mouseover text:
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can make me think I deserved it.

Categories: arts & entertainment, ethics & philosophy, indigenous, social justice

Tags: , ,

6 replies

  1. Collingwood player Harry O’Brien has been saying some things that need saying as well.

  2. Very good article – pity, but unsurprising, that the very first commenter is an [redacted]. At least he also gets called out on it.

  3. Thanks for the link, DrPaul. I mentioned O’Brien in the post, but I didn’t have a good link summarising his comments from Twitter. The clip I saw him in on Auntie was from Foxtel’s football program, and unconstrained by the 140-char tweet limit he made some even more powerful points.

    • Moar linkage:
      Luke Pearson in The Guardian

      Eddie McGuire’s thoughtless comments show that anti-racism is a learned skill
      McGuire’s apology was necessary, and the AFL usually take an exemplary stand against racism. But work still has to be done

      Preston Towers at The Preston Institute:

      Larrikinism and Casual Racism – Goodesy, MMM, Eddie and Harry
      It’s been a strange old week, where it started with a 13 year old girl learning very quickly just what saying “ape” to an Indigenous man actually means. Eddie McGuire certainly knew what it meant – I doubt Eddie has moved more swiftly to an opposition’s dressing room than he did that night. This moment reminded me strongly of that moment where the production team at Hey Hey it’s Saturday very quickly realised how having a blackface act belonged more to the 1890s than in the 21st Century world.

  4. There was also this on the ABC website, which I thought was a good call out of the ‘it’s just a joke’ thing.

  5. Aaaaahh! What sort of douchetastic fool utters something like that only days after the whole point of racial vilification, and more particularly, how this type of racist slur gives offence, was explained all over the fucking place. And on breakfast radio. #furrfu ×1,000,000 (I don’t want to give myself a *facepalm* or *headdesk*, I’d be likely to injure myself)
    (I actually enjoyed watching some of the indigenous round of AFL on telly, and actually saw the vilification incident involving Adam Goodes at the Sydney-Collingwood match unfold.)

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