AFL: 'We won’t repeat mistakes of Goodes racism saga'
AFL executive Tanya Hosch says the league is in discussions with the Federal Government about freeing the Aboriginal flag and she fully supports fans bringing the emblem to Indigenous Round matches this weekend.
The league's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council has advised it to not display the flag in the centre circle and on guernseys during the Sir Doug Nicholls Round, amid a dispute with WAM Clothing, which holds the worldwide licence for the symbol's use.
Essendon great Michael Long this week called on football supporters to fill Darwin's TIO Stadium with the iconic red, black and yellow flag for the Gold Coast-Carlton game and Essendon-Richmond Dreamtime match in a protest to the "totally outrageous" copyright ban.
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Hosch, the AFL's social inclusion and policy general manager, told News Corp she did not bring one with her to the NT, but would be happy to see flags in the crowd and the league was backing a national campaign to resolve the issue.
"This is a round where we celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities and contributions to football, and we know the flag is an important emblem," said Hosch, who is of Torres Strait Islander heritage.
"The AFL has communicated with the Federal Government on this matter and definitely support the resolution of the issue, and support the position of the Free the Flag campaign.
"I'm certain that behind the scenes a great deal of work is going into dealing with this issue.
"It's an important resolution for the whole country.
"We stand in unity with Aboriginal people and other Australians who really want to see free access to the flag.
"I didn't pack one with me and I'm working at the game, but I completely support other people doing that (bringing Aboriginal flags)."
WAM Clothing purchased the copyright licence to the Aboriginal flag design in 2018 and now charged commercial fees for its use.
Hosch said the AFL's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council had recommended the league did not enter into a licence agreement over use of the flag.
In a wide-ranging interview, Hosch also spoke about:
■ The AFL not doing enough to support Adam Goodes as he dealt with "extraordinary degrees of racism" and;
■ The league's poor handling of the immunisation fiasco.
Taylor was the victim of racist abuse online last week after copping a season-long ban for his partner entering Sydney's COVID-19 hub in Perth.
The first-year Swan posted a Instagram screenshot of the vile message, prompting condemnation from the league and Sydney, and the AFL integrity unit to investigate.
She said the league was pushing the Federal Government to expand the eSafety Commissioner's powers so online racism and sexism targeting adults could dealt with and would strengthen platforms that helped drown out racism.
But she added the AFL was limited in what it could do because "we are a sporting code, not the law".
"Sadly, there's too many incidents," she said.
"This is incredibly harmful material to all players and no one should have to tolerate discrimination or racism, by virtue of doing their job.
"Unless they're a member of the AFL or a football club, unfortunately, we don't have the jurisdiction to do anything other than take the steps we're taking.
"It's an issue not just for the AFL, but society as a whole."
The abuse directed at Taylor followed Eddie Betts and Liam Ryan being racially attacked online earlier this season.
Five years ago, Brownlow Medallist Adam Goodes retired after being booed at grounds across the league for two straight seasons.
Hosch said the league did not do enough to stop Goodes, who wore 37, the number handed down to Taylor, from enduring "extraordinary degrees of racism on a sizeable platform" during a "horrible time" for him, and it had apologised.
"We were so lucky to have the gifts to the country in (documentaries) the Final Quarter and The Australian Dream to shine a light back on that time," she said.
"It's so important to reflect on the past and where you got it wrong … to help you avoid making those mistakes again.
"What it did was help us revisit … all of the work we still need to do to try to make sure no one has to endure what Adam went through ever again.
"I think if it happened again, it would be a very different response."
Hosch also conceded the league had bungled the vaccinations issue last month - when club doctors were informed it was compulsory for Indigenous and Torres Strait Island players to receive a pneumococcal vaccination - calling the error a "breakdown in process".
She said the league had apologised and remained in discussions with the AFL Players Association as it reviewed what went wrong, but could not yet talk about the details.
"The results of that will be shared once those conversations with the AFLPA have been completed on behalf of the players," she said.
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Originally published as AFL: We won't repeat mistakes of Goodes racism saga