Australia

Brisbane Lions detail ‘shocking’ examples of online racial abuse targeting players

The Brisbane Lions Football club has detailed “shocking” and “saddening” examples of online racial abuse targeting players, as it pushes for stronger regulation to stamp out the vilification. 

Warning: The following story contains examples of racist abuse

In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry, the club said its players are “consistently exposed” to hate speech and vilification, particularly through online channels and social media.

A screenshot of a Facebook messenger conversation from July — provided to the inquiry — showed a user calling an athlete “a little useless ape” and to “chuck him in the zoo” and “throw bananas at him”.

In another incident last month, a social media user commented on Instagram that: “I hate Aboriginals, there [sic] scum”.

The club alerted the AFL Integrity Unit to the incidents.

In the same week the club’s submission was put forward, the AFL was forced to make public statements calling out racism specifically.

“Too often, participants in our code are subject to racial abuse on the football field, in the stands and increasingly, on social media,” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlin said in a statement.

“While rivalry and competition remain integral in our code, there is no place for vilification or discrimination of any kind in our sport, or in the community. None,” he said.

The club said it believed there needed to be more regulation and legislation, particularly of social media platforms, to ensure “those committing these acts of vilification can be held accountable”.

“Today’s backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated hate speech and now is the time for action,” the submission stated.

Incidents cause anger, confusion and concern

In the same week the club’s submission was put forward, the AFL was forced to make public statements calling out racism specifically.(

AAP: Dave Hunt

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It is one of 80 submissions made to the parliamentary committee’s inquiry into serious vilification and hate crimes, announced by the state government earlier this year.

The inquiry is examining the nature and extent of serious vilification in Queensland, whether there is evidence of increasing instances, and the effectiveness of existing laws in responding to hate crimes, including online vilification.

The Brisbane Lions said the incidents have caused anger, confusion and concern for their players, as well as frustration “that without harder consequences, it continues to happen”.

The club’s submission put forward several recommendations after consulting with their Indigenous athletes, including better education in schools and a national campaign to promote an easy process to report these crimes.

It also suggested law reform for online social media platforms, namely prosecution and criminal charges.

“Without these harder consequences, this kind of behaviour will continue to happen,” the submission said.

“[Also] consideration of options for identity verification for online accounts to enable tracing perpetrators – understand there are some serious ramifications for this and so appreciate due diligence must be applied here.”

Queensland’s human rights commissioner Scott McDougall said the inquiry has shown this abuse is not only a problem for elite athletes, “it affects people from diverse backgrounds” across the state.

“The Brisbane Lions have made some sensible recommendations to address the issue — including by tackling racism in schools — and the commission looks forward to working with the Queensland government to introduce reforms that would provide accessible forms of redress for victims of abuse,” he said.

“At the moment, under Queensland’s criminal law, a prosecution for serious vilification can only proceed with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Attorney-General. That is one of several changes that need to be made.”

“The starting point for the Committee is to understand the level of harm caused to individuals, families and the whole community when people are subjected to vilification and hate crimes. It needs to be seen for what it is – a public health issue.”

The committee will report back in January 2022.

‘Bravery and courage’

The Port Adelaide Football Club also made a public statement, following a social media post directed at one of its players earlier this month.

Aliir Aliir was named best on ground in the round 21 match against the Adelaide Crows but was the target of a post likening him to a monkey.

“Our game is built on bravery and courage, commitment and togetherness,” Port Adelaide said in a statement.

“There is nothing brave or courageous about using social media to racially abuse or personally vilify a player.”

Earlier this month, Adelaide Crows forward Taylor Walker was suspended for six matches over a racist comment and forced to make a $20,000 donation to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program.

The comment was made in reference to North Adelaide player Robbie Young — who is Aboriginal and used to play for AFL side St Kilda — during a Crows reserves match on July 17.

The comment was reported by an Adelaide Crows official, sparking an investigation by the AFL Integrity Unit.

An independent review earlier this year also found the Collingwood Football Club guilty of systemic racism.

The “Do Better” review resulted in the resignation of Collingwood President Eddie McGuire, who will end his tenure at the club at the end of this season.


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