“Unacceptable”: Australia’s long battle against racism in sport

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Sydney (AFP)

The alleged racist abuse of Indian players by supporters in the third test in Sydney is just the latest in a litany of similar incidents in marathon sport in Australia, with authorities working to root out the problem.

Cricket chiefs have vowed to take tough action including bans, fines and police dismissals if spectators are found to have launched racist taunts after two incidents on different days eclipsed the shock at success.

But this remains a permanent, albeit isolated, problem.

Fast bowlers Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah were apparently targeted as they stood near the Sydney cricket ground boundary ropes late on Saturday, with reports they were being called ‘monkeys’, among other slurs.

In a second incident, play was cut short on Sunday when Siraj ran from the border to the referees, pointing the finger at the crowd. It was not immediately clear what was said, but six men were deported and investigations are ongoing.

Veteran Indian spinner Ravi Ashwin said this was not a new problem for visiting teams, saying he had been at the end of ‘naughty’ abuse on four tours of the country, Sydney being the worst.

“It’s been an ongoing thing in Sydney, I’ve personally experienced it too,” he said.

“If I go back to my first tour in 2011-12, I had no idea about racial violence and how small it can be in front of so many people.

“And people laugh at you when you’re mistreated, I had no idea what it was.

– Online Trolls –

“When I stood at the dividing line, you wanted to stand another 10 yards to get away from these things… that’s definitely not acceptable. ”

The Australian team had formed a “barefoot circle” ahead of the series of four tests against the cricket powerhouse to demonstrate its opposition to racism and to celebrate Aboriginal culture.

Cricket Australia strongly condemned the incidents over the weekend, as did Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who said: “There is no room for racism in Australia. We are a tolerant country and the most prosperous multicultural nation in the world. ”

But this has been a problem in Australian sport stretching back decades, on and off the pitch.

Former Australian Test star Usman Khawaja has previously said he was so abused growing up that he refused to support the national team and claims racism even played a role in the selections of the team.

Khawaja, who immigrated as a child, battled the odds of becoming Australia’s first Pakistan-born national player, but it wasn’t easy.

“Being dragged along by opposition players and their parents was the norm. Some of them said it quietly enough that I couldn’t hear it, ”he wrote several years ago.

As I got older he said Australia had grown too and “I began to understand that the minority of Australians who treated me this way is just that, a minority”.

Versatile player Dan Christian has also been the victim, mostly of online trolls, revealing last year that he was targeted for speaking out against ‘occasional racism’ in cricket.

– ‘It’s definitely there’ –

One of six native players to represent Australia internationally, he said it wasn’t “as face-to-face as you might see elsewhere in the world” but “it’s definitely there”.

Football has also been tarnished, with Brisbane goalkeeper Roar Jamie Young, of Sri Lankan and Scottish descent, racially abused by a disgruntled fan in 2018. The perpetrator was banned from future home games.

Australia’s most popular spectator sport, Aussie Rules, which is similar to Irish Gaelic football and has long featured native stars, has been one of the worst culprits, known for loud crowds taunting players.

Such behavior was once considered an integral part of the game, but attitudes started to change in the 1990s.

One of the most powerful images associated with racism in Australian sport is that of native St Kilda player Nicky Winmar, who in 1993 responded to abuse from Collingwood supporters by lifting his shirt in front of the crowd and showing his skin.

This move is often seen as the catalyst for tackling racial defamation in Australian rules.

He introduced policies in the 1990s that made it an offense to insult someone because of their race, religion, ethnicity, color, nationality or background, position then being taken up by many other sports, including cricket.

But issues persist with Adam Goodes, one of Australia’s foremost Indigenous sportsmen, who retired from the Aussie Rules in 2015 after being subjected to repeated boos.

And it wasn’t until last year that veteran Eddie Betts was described as a monkey in a Twitter post the same weekend that all AFL teams came together to support Black Lives Matter.

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