Australia’s AFL investigates First Nation player mistreatment

Sydney, Australia, Sep 21 (EFE).- The Australian Football League announced Wednesday it is investigating the “serious allegations” of mistreatment against First Nation players, including isolation from their families and pressure for their partners to abort, within Melbourne club Hawthorn.

“We have to carry out a proper investigation to get to the bottom of the matter,” AFL Executive Director Gillon McLachlan said in a news conference, announcing the formation of an independent panel to investigate the scandal.

McLachlan said he recognized “the pain, anger and sorrow” of those allegedly affected and their families, whose identities were not revealed, insisting the AFL would support abuse victims.

The complaints suggest several Hawthorn figures – such as coach Alastair Clarkson and his assistant Chris Fagan – demanded that young indigenous players be separated from their respective partners. This is according to a confidential external investigation carried out by the club and whose content was partially disclosed by the Australian public broadcaster ABC.

Coaches allegedly pressured a player to have his wife abort, causing him continuous stress, trauma and even suicidal thoughts, as well as problems with his partner, who suffered stress after birth due to the anguish caused for these demands.

“Clarkson leaned over me and demanded that I get rid of my unborn child and my partner. He then manipulated me and convinced me to remove the SIM card from my phone, so there was no further contact between me and my family. They told me that from that night I would live with one of the other coaches,” a player identified as Ian told ABC.

The reported incidents at Hawthorn, which won four AFL championships including a historic treble between 2013 and 2015, involve young First Nation players and Torres Strait islanders entering a five-year contract with the club.

Hawthorn, who then had about 20 First Nation and Torres Strait island players, confirmed the existence of this confidential report in a statement Wednesday, although he declined to comment.

“The reports of racism, harm and discrimination suffered by indigenous players and their families at Hawthorn FC are heartbreaking. My thoughts today are with the players and their families who were allegedly subjected to horrific treatment,” Linda Burney, the minister for Indigenous Australians, wrote on Twitter.

The allegations of mistreatment at Hawthorn come 18 months after the publication of the Collingwood club’s report, also in Melbourne, entitled “Doing Better” on the club’s systemic culture of racism.

First Nation Australians, who represent 3.2 percent of the country’s total population, have been victims of constant mistreatment since colonization, in addition to being dispossessed of their lands and systematically discriminated against by institutions, organizations and society in general. EFE


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