The allegations are sickening.
A young Indigenous man pressured to leave his partner and terminate a much-wanted pregnancy simply for the sake of his footballing career.
SIM cards removed from players’ phones who were then moved into coaches’ homes in a deliberate attempt to cut them off from their families.
The partner of one player left so distraught she resorted to contacting police to check her boyfriend was safe.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan called the allegations contained in a review of racism at Hawthorn Football Club during Alastair Clarkson’s four-time premiership winning tenure “a tough read”.
We call them deplorable. Disgusting. Distressing. They’re also depressingly believable.
Football has always had an undercurrent of racial tension. It bubbles along under the surface And then, occasionally, it erupts.
West Australian great Nicky Winmar defiantly lifting his jumper in response to racist taunts from the crowd in 1993.
Michael Long standing up to Damian Monkhorst in front of a packed MCG on Anzac Day 1995. The barbaric booing of Adam Goodes.
The bombshell Hawthorn report follows a review into Collingwood’s culture last year that found the club was guilty of “systemic racism” which resulted in “profound and enduring harm” to Indigenous and African players.
That review resulted in the exit of Eddie McGuire as club president after 22 years.
If proven, these latest allegations will spell the end of the careers of Clarkson — the most successful coach of the modern era who is now contracted to North Melbourne — as well as Brisbane’s Chris Fagan and others named in the report.
McLachlan has already committed to commissioning an external, independent panel review of the allegations. A four-person panel led by a King’s Counsel will investigate what he called “harrowing stories”. But it can’t end there.
We now have two AFL clubs that have undertaken reviews into racism. Both have revealed appalling instances of discrimination. There are 16 more clubs in the AFL.
Each must now commit to their own reviews. We call on the two West Australians clubs, the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers, to do so.
If they or the others don’t of their own accord, the AFL must compel them to.
McLachlan’s time as AFL chief executive is due to end.
There’s much to be proud of in his nine-season tenure, including the astronomical growth of the women’s league, and the successful continuation of the competition through the pandemic.
But drawing a line in the sand on racism can be his legacy. Across the country, thousands of Indigenous boys and girls dream of careers in football. The three young men who have made allegations against Hawthorn were once among them.
Their lives were left in tatters by their alleged treatment once they finally made it there. Two of the three made suicide attempts.
Football is just a game. It should never be life or death.
Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by WAN Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie