Home Australia Stop downplaying racism, sports integrity chief says, as football legends named in landmark new class action against AFL

Stop downplaying racism, sports integrity chief says, as football legends named in landmark new class action against AFL

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Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) chief executive David Sharpe says sports leaders must stop downplaying racism

Australian sports leaders must stop downplaying racism amid a new wave of defamation claims, the country’s sports integrity chief says.

Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) chief executive David Sharpe says athletes guilty of racism should face the same lengthy sentences imposed on fans in similar situations.

Sharpe is particularly critical of the downplaying of racism by influential people in Australian sport.

“Attitudes won’t change until the narrative changes,” Sharpe said Sunday.

“Sports and sponsor brands are aligning themselves with bad behavior, but these brands have the power to drive cultural change to eradicate these bad behaviors.”

Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) chief executive David Sharpe says sports leaders must stop downplaying racism

Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) chief executive David Sharpe says sports leaders must stop downplaying racism

Kevin Sheedy (pictured) and Terry Daniher are among football legends named in an explosive new class action lawsuit against the AFL.

Kevin Sheedy (pictured) and Terry Daniher are among football legends named in an explosive new class action lawsuit against the AFL.

Kevin Sheedy (pictured) and Terry Daniher are among football legends named in an explosive new class action lawsuit against the AFL.

Sharpe’s comments come after a week in which the AFL joined the NRL and Football Australia in being linked to racism allegations.

The AFL is facing a new class action lawsuit alleging historical racism from North Melbourne Indigenous Krakouer brothers Jim and Phil in the 1980s.

The class action lawsuit filed in the Victorian Supreme Court last Tuesday alleges the Krakouers were vilified by identities such as former Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy, who denied the allegations.

The AFL has vowed to fight the class action, saying it disagrees with claims that the VFL/AFL has behaved negligently.

The class action is open to more than 1,000 former VFL/AFL players who are Indigenous or people of color and their families, and has been brought by Margalit Injury Lawyers, the firm behind a separate concussion class action against the AFL.

The AFL action came the same week Sydney Roosters forward Spencer Leniu apologized to Brisbane Broncos five-eighth Ezra Mam for making a racist comment during last Sunday’s NRL match at Las Vegas.

Leniu will plead guilty to a charge of contrary conduct before the NRL judiciary on Monday.

Australian football has also been embroiled in scandal, with Matildas captain Sam Kerr facing a racial harassment charge in the UK.

Former Kangaroos players Jimmy Krakouer and Phil Krakouer have claimed they suffered acts of vile racism.

Former Kangaroos players Jimmy Krakouer and Phil Krakouer have claimed they suffered acts of vile racism.

Former Kangaroos players Jimmy Krakouer and Phil Krakouer have claimed they suffered acts of vile racism.

Sam Kerr is accused of racially aggravated harassment of a police officer and will face trial in the matter in 2025

Sam Kerr is accused of racially aggravated harassment of a police officer and will face trial in the matter in 2025

Sam Kerr is accused of racially aggravated harassment of a police officer and will face trial in the matter in 2025

Kerr pleaded not guilty in a London court on Monday to a charge of using insulting, threatening or abusive words which caused alarm or distress to a police officer.

Sharpe, while not directly addressing cases involving the AFL, NRL or Kerr, said Australia’s sporting leaders needed to call out any comments that attempted to normalize or justify racist behaviour.

“We are in 2024, not 1924, and there must be zero tolerance when it comes to racism in sport,” he said.

‘Any inappropriate comment, whatever its nature, is not just a ‘joke’ or ‘fun and games on the pitch.’

‘There are no excuses for insults that could be interpreted as racist in nature. If the comments cause harm, then the intent is irrelevant.

‘If the comments offend an individual, they also offend their families, their countries, their culture.

‘We see strong messages sent to fans and crowds found guilty of racist insults with long sentences. These same sanctions should apply to athletes.

‘Australian sporting leaders and sponsors must send a message to the world in the lead-up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games.

‘The world is watching. Eradicating racism in sport is the legacy we can be proud of.”

SIA culture and safety adviser Patrick Johnson, a former Indigenous champion sprinter, said Australia needs to “draw a clear line in the sand”.

“We are all responsible for calling out racism,” Johnson said.

‘We do not tolerate it in our sport now or in the future.

“Our children deserve better as this does not represent our Australian way of life.”

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