A footy legend has come under fire after suggesting Adam Goodes should ‘appreciate’ what footy has given him and move on from racial controversy after rejecting a Hall of Fame invitation from the AFL.
Sydney Swans icon and proud Indigenous man Goodes knocked back the offer from the code after he was the victim of ongoing racism by toxic fans at the back end of his illustrious career.
Speaking on SEN Breakfast on Tuesday morning, Essendon great Tim Watson, now a respected media personality, said he was ‘surprised’ at Goodes’ ongoing stance after he retired from the sport under a cloud of controversy in 2015.
‘I would have thought (by now) mentally he (Goodes) might have been able to repair some of those bridges between himself and the game,’ he said over the airwaves.
Sydney Swans icon Adam Goodes knocked back a Hall of Fame offer from the AFL after he was the victim of ongoing racism by toxic fans at the back end of his career (pictured, with his wife Natalie)
Footy legend Tim Watson (pictured right) has come under fire after publicly weighing into the discussion surrounding the decision by Adam Goodes to reject a Hall of Fame invitation from the AFL
‘From there he can feel differently about his time and then just appreciate all the great things about the game that were delivered to him.’
Watson’s left-field take upset some, with sports commentator and former radio and TV personality Francis Leach tweeting sarcastically: ‘Just forgive and forget, because, you know, it’s footy! They still don’t get it.’
Reporter Robert Lusetich was equally bemused by Watson’s viewpoint, stating what happened to Goodes ‘is a travesty’ and ‘anyone who can’t see that needs to look in the mirror.’
Fellow Indigenous athlete Eddie Betts, also a victim of racist slurs in his storied career with Adelaide and Carlton, said the effects of racism can’t be healed, explaining that it ‘sticks with you forever.’
‘I think about every time I’ve been racially abused and it cuts me deep, and I think it’s going to hurt for the rest of my life,’ he said on AFL 360 on Tuesday night.
‘I think people out there have to respect his (Goodes’) 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.’
AFL legend Goodes rejecting one of the football code’s most prestigious accolades earlier this week was an instant talking point.
The 2014 Australian of the Year was a unanimous first-year committee selection to be inducted in the AFL Hall of Fame, which is eligible to former champions retired for at least five years.
But the dual Brownlow Medal winner and two-time Sydney Swans premiership player told AFL officials he won’t accept the invitation.
After being subject to relentless racial abuse in the final 18 months of his 372-game career, Goodes distanced himself from the sport after hanging up his boots.
Rival fans booed Goodes for 17 consecutive games in 2015, which forced him to take leave from the game and retire just weeks later.
He also turned down an offer to be part of the lap of honour for retired players around the MCG on Grand Final day in 2015.
The final few seasons of Adam Goodes’ career were marred by racial abuse. He is pictured pointing out a young Collingwood fan who called him an ape at a game in 2013
Rival fans booed Goodes for 17 consecutive games in 2015, which forced him to take leave from the game and retired just weeks later. Pictured is a Collingwood fan booing Goodes in 2015
He has remained out of the limelight since and friends claim Goodes doesn’t even attend Swans matches or watch his former club on television.
Two years earlier, Goodes made headlines when he became an outspoken advocate for Indigenous rights after standing up to relentless crowd abuse.
He had been standing near the boundary during the dying stages of a match against Collingwood at the MCG when he heard a 13-year-old girl in the crowd yell over the fence: ‘Goodes, you’re an ape’.
Then Collingwood president president Eddie McGuire apologised to Goodes after the match – but then joked on his breakfast radio show five days later that the Swans star should be used to promote the musical King Kong in Melbourne.
AFL Commission chairman Richard Goyder said he ‘understands and respects’ Goodes’ decision and admitted the code had let him down.
Adam Goodes (pictured with his wife Natalie) was a victim on ongoing racism before retiring from the sport
It is understood the Sydney Swans great – where he won two flags – doesn’t even watch his old club play
‘Adam remains a great champion and leader of our game who has given more to our sport than he received in return,’ Goyder said in a statement.
‘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.’