AFL legend Adam Goodes’ decision to knock back a place in the game’s Hall of Fame may be perplexing to some but Carlton champion Eddie Betts understands his stance.
Goodes achieved everything possible in the AFL – two Brownlow medals, two Premierships, four All-Australian berths, a place in the Indigenous Team of the Century, 372 games and even becoming the 2014 Australian of the Year.
Stream selected Fox Footy shows on Kayo Freebies completely free this June including AFL 360, On The Couch, Bounce & more. No Credit Card. No-brainer. Register Free Now >
But despite all his achievements, Goodes will always be remembered for the final years before his exit from the AFL spotlight, when the Swans legend was repeatedly racially abused.
Two documentaries were released on the subject with The Final Quarter and The Australian Dream covering the topic.
The reaction to the documentaries was swift with Australians and the rest of the world reacting to the scenes, with some Americans saying that Goodes was treated worse than former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
If anyone would know where Goodes is coming from, it’s Betts, with the Blues star also being racially abused throughout his career.
He also opened up on the impact, revealing he had been racially abused every year for his last six years in Adelaide.
But speaking on Fox Footy’s AFL 360, Betts said he understood why Goodes would reject the Hall of Fame honour.
“It was really sad, I could understand why,” Betts said. “What happened to Adam throughout his last two years of playing AFL footy and stuff that he copped throughout the organisation and through the general public as well, it does leave a scar.
“It leaves a scar and when you talk about racial abuse and would time heal that, time can’t heal racism, that sticks with you forever. When I think about it, I think about every time I’ve been racially abused and it cuts me deep, it really does, it still cuts me to this day and I think it’s going to hurt for the rest of my life. I think what happened to Adam will hurt him for the rest of his life.
“I think people out there have to respect his decision and understand his decision, I know it’s been out in the media today and I know there will be a lot of comments about Adam and his life but I just believe that people need to respect Adam’s decision, this is his decision, he’s been racially abused.
“If you haven’t been racially abused, then you don’t know what it feels like, it cuts you deep and obviously it cut Adam really deep and hopefully people out there can respect the decision that Adam doesn’t want to accept that.”
In the Herald Sun, chief football reporter Mark Robinson wrote that “The most heartbreaking response to Adam Goodes rejecting his induction into the Hall of Fame is the belief by some that he must move on, that it happened a long, long five years ago.”
“This is not Goodes’ issue. This is a football issue. Our issue,” he continued.
“The finger should be pointed at the AFL and at the thousands of footy fans who treated Goodes with disdain and, in part, for creating a relentless pile-on by a racially-charged mob.”
In 2019, all the teams and the AFL release a statement apologising for the treatment Goodes faced throughout his career.
AFL commission chairman Richard Goyder apologised again today.
“Adam had asked the AFL to wait before announcing his decision, which has now been made public separately,” Goyder said.
“Adam was clear he did not want his decision to detract from the moment for the 2021 inductees.
“Adam remains a great champion and leader of our game who has given more to our sport than he received in return.
“The treatment of Adam in his final years at AFL level drove him from football.
“The AFL and our game did not do enough to stand with him at the time, and call it out.
“The unreserved apology that the game provided him in 2019 was too late, but on behalf of our commission and the AFL, I apologise unreservedly again for our failures during this period.
“Failure to call out racism and not standing up for Adam let down all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, past and present.
“We hope that there will be a time in the future when Adam will want to be connected to the game again. This is a decision for Adam and Adam only and we understand and respect his choice.”
Goodes was so hurt by the racist jibes that he declined to take part in the traditional grand final lap of honour for retiring players in 2015.
“Me choosing to walk away was me making a choice for my own mental health,” he said. “And I needed to get away from this toxic environment which, up until that point in time, had been a safe place for me to just be an incredible player that I wanted to be and to learn to be the leader that I was.
“But here I had the choice to submit myself to this toxic environment or get away from it and really reassess my priorities.”