Bullying can come in various forms and for different reasons. Classically it is defined as the singling out and denigration of an individual or group by a more powerful group on a repetitive basis.
The treatment of Adam Goodes by large portions of football crowds in this fashion fits that definition perfectly. He is one individual subject to constant denigration whenever he plays by persons whose anonymity provided by the crowd enables them to get away with this cowardly behaviour.
In the professional sporting arena, the cultural impact of bullying multiplies tenfold due to the number of people involved and sets an appalling example to young people and particularly young children exposed to it.
I understand that occasional booing is common place in sport and in certain circumstances allows fans to healthily express their views.
My concern is when the booing is unrelated to what has happened at the particular sporting event in question and is inspired by antipathy to the person in question and continues every time he plays.
Adam Goodes has been and still is an important role model for tens of thousands of Australians, both as a sportsman and an Australian citizen.
His elite athleticism and skill have helped him thrive at the sport’s highest level winning two Brownlow Medals and two Premierships. In his role as 2014 Australian of the Year, he has worked with various communities, setting an important example for people, both young and old, to strive for a more united and pluralist country.
Clearly the boos are having a serious impact on Adam’s wellbeing. Yes he is a professional athlete and yes he is a celebrity, but what the booers are quickly forgetting, is that he is a human being.
The unedifying spectacle of singling out this one player sends out an ugly message to the public, which suggests it’s acceptable to single out and vilify one player on a repetitive basis. It is not. It actually undoes all the fantastic work Adam has done in our community and discredits the great game of Australian Rules football.
For him to retire from the sport prematurely as a result of this would be unacceptable. This behaviour needs to stop now.
The Honourable Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC
Chair National Centre against Bullying
[Published on the National Centre Against Bullying website, 30 July 2015]