Hawthorn racism scandal: AFL faces ‘conflicts of interest’, calls for Indigenous players to boycott game

The AFL Players’ Association believes the AFL will be at odds over its investigation into the Hawthorn racism scandal and says an independent panel needs to investigate the burning issue that has engulfed the game.

AFLPA chief Paul Marsh has called for an “independent, well-resourced process” as the AFL seeks to finalize its panel that will lead the investigation.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh speaks to 7NEWS about the Hawthorn racism scandal.

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“I just think there’s a conflict of interest there with the AFL. I think it’s a big issue that needs to be handled properly and sensitively, and one that all parties are ready to join,” Marsh told 7NEWS.

Marsh’s concerns come after a poll found that out of 92 Indigenous players, a third had experienced racism during their AFL career. In addition, the survey found that only 17 percent of those affected were satisfied with the end result.

Meanwhile, writer and former cricketer Ben Abbatangelo said it was time to impose a moratorium on the AFL’s Indigenous Round following “a long string of deep pains Blackfellas have endured in sport”.

“I think it’s time that Indigenous players boycotted across the AFL… I think it’s time to learn from many other political movements throughout history that solidarity always wins,” Ben Abbatangelo said on Tuesday Thursday night at ABC.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in the AFL are the #1 shareholders. They bring so much joy to the game, so much joy to people’s lives, but when you can’t be free in those moments, and all of us in those moments, it’s none of us.

“I think it’s time to boycott, I think it’s time to impose a moratorium on the indigenous round, I think it’s time to ditch the Guernseys, I think it’s time to call for real change.”

Adelaide’s Wayne Milera, Port Adelaide’s Mickey O’Brien and Lachie Jones ahead of the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls round in May this year. Recognition: Getty Images

Outgoing Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett has finally broken his silence on the scandal that has resulted in former coach Alastair Clarkson and former football manager Chris Fagan resigning from their current positions while they await the conclusion of the investigation .

In a letter to club members, Kennett said he was “appalled” by the stories in the report and “a solution must be found quickly.”

Scroll to read Jeff Kennett’s full letter to Hawthorn members

“When the club received the final report, it would be an understatement to say we were appalled by the stories recorded by three of our former players and their partners,” he said.

“If the allegations are true, these individuals and their families have been subjected to horrific and unacceptable behavior.”

But Kennett reminded members the report was commissioned by the club and revealed Hawthorn had met with the AFL’s legal counsel on Thursday.

Hawthorn President Jeff Kennett and Jarman Impey after their Round 18 clash with West Coast at the MCG in July. Recognition: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Dear members,

When Hawthorn Football Club selects young men and women for our playlists, we do so because they have demonstrated they have skills that increase the club’s chances of success, or because we identify potential talent and individuals who we believe that we can help them develop into Premiership players for us.

We do not select players based on race, color or religion.

Once they are on our list they are all equally important to us and we spend a lot of time developing their football skills, encouraging them to go to college and gaining skills for life after football. Over the course of the journey we’ve had a number of First Nations players wear brown and gold.

Chance Bateman was our first First Nations player to play 100 games for our club.

Shaun Burgoyne recently ended his career with us after playing over 400 AFL games.

Lance Franklin has now scored 1,000 goals with us and Sydney.

Cyril Rioli could turn on a sixpence and electrify us all.

As well as Mark Williams, Brad Hill and others, all of whom have been major influences over the years.

Today Jarman Impey, Chad Wingard, Tyler Brockman, Kaitlyn Ashmore and Janet Baird wear our colours.

Recently we decided to work with our past and present First Nations players and staff to learn more about their experiences at club and to see if they need further support in their life after football.

We engaged Phil Egan and his company, Binmada, to speak to our past and present First Nations players and staff because we understood that First Nations people would feel more comfortable telling their stories to other First Nations people. We have also been asked and required to keep the rating and any comments made by respondents confidential. Importantly, many participated on that basis.

When the club received the final report, it would be an understatement to say that we were appalled by the stories recorded by three of our former players and their partners. If the allegations are true, these individuals and their families have been subjected to horrific and unacceptable behavior.

The review was never meant to be forensic. We wanted to hear from our past and present First Nations players about their experiences at Hawthorn and their current well-being.

The board met to review the final review and, due to the gravity of the content, decided to bring senior AFL officials to the stories contained in the review. The board further determined that the review had to be presented to the AFL’s integrity department, as required by the club’s AFL license and because it was a key recommendation of the review. We also felt that as a club we did not have the staff or skills to take the matter further.

After submitting the review to the AFL, we were told that certain family members of those who shared their story had also been interviewed by an ABC journalist.

Her story was then published by ABC shortly thereafter.

The stories themselves are so heartbreaking to read.

We had just started a process with the AFL to address the issues raised by the three families.

The ABC story and reporting since then publicly named a number of people the three families had mentioned in their stories to Mr Egan and the ABC. This denied those named their ability to respond to those allegations in a reasonable and fair manner consistent with AFL rules.

All named in the ABC story have resigned from their positions pending a resolution.

In light of the allegations made and the failure of procedural fairness to others, the AFL has opened a four-person investigation to investigate the allegations and ultimately determine the truth. The details of Form, Form and personnel who will lead the investigation will be released by the AFL in the next few days.

Last night the club requested a meeting with the AFL and their attorney and that meeting took place today.

Of course, our first concern is the welfare of the families who have made the claims and we are doing all we can to work with them. We are also concerned about the individuals and families who have been publicly named.

All families suffer for different reasons.

A solution must be found quickly and all parties should be willing to work towards a solution because if they don’t, everyone involved will be badly affected.

Those injured by alleged past actions should be granted their right to natural justice and the club can continue to learn and grow in this important area.

As a club, we make no apologies for asking our past and present First Nations players and staff about their past and present experiences. Doing so is good practice and will assist us in our efforts to provide a safe and nurturing environment for every member of our community.

Hopefully all parties will see fit to work with the AFL investigation to bring this matter to a conclusion. We at the club do not intend to make any ongoing comment on this matter and will allow the AFL inquiry to do its job.

That means we will help wherever we can.

Stay Strong Hawkers, Jeff Kennett

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https://7news.com.au/sport/afl/afl-facing-conflict-of-interest-over-racism-scandal-calls-come-for-indigenous-players-to-boycott-game-c-8402727 Hawthorn racism scandal: AFL faces ‘conflicts of interest’, calls for Indigenous players to boycott game

James Brien

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