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Hawthorn captain Ben Stratton says the Hawks are fully behind Chad Wingard and the AFL star’s work to call out racism in Australia.
Wingard has used social media to express his frustration with a lack of diversity in the mainstream media and the coverage of protests in the USA following the death of George Floyd, along with drawing attention to racism and Indigenous deaths in custody in Australia.
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The 26-year-old took to social media on Monday evening, declaring he would temporarily ban himself from doing interviews and vowing to use his own platform more extensively.
His stance has divided opinion in the AFL community but the Hawks are fully supportive of their player.
Stratton lauded Wingard's decision to take a stand.
"Regardless of the issue, it probably takes some balls to speak up and stuff like that," Stratton told reporters on Wednesday.
"So probably in a world where everything gets judged and speech gets judged, I reckon it takes some balls and good on him, we're behind him 100 per cent."
On Monday, Wingard said he would only participate in interviews he was contractually obliged to fulfil and would use his own platforms to share his opinions.
"I dont (sic) trust our media anymore! Until things change i wont be doing any interviews im (sic) not contracted to do! Ill (sic) be sharing my own thoughts and content!" Wingard wrote on Twitter.
Hawks fully behind Indigenous stars
Stratton said he was yet to speak to Wingard in person but emphasised the club's support for the 26-year-old and Hawthorn's other Indigenous players.
"All we can do is support him and I think a lot of boys have supported him on social channels and stuff like that," he said.
"So that's all we can do as a club and we can continue celebrating what the Indigenous boys have given to this game, to this club and we're lucky enough to have had some crackers over the years here and just to have crossed paths with them - we're pretty lucky."
Stratton also highlighted the influence of veteran Shaun Burgoyne on Hawthorn's playing group.
"Shaun over the years has been a mentor for all players coming into the club but especially those young Indigenous boys," he said.
"Seeing him work with the young boys that come in to the four walls at the Hawthorn footy club, it's pretty special the way he goes about it.
"We've always had that here - when I first got here we had (Chance) Bateman and Buddy (Franklin) and those boys, they've just been so special for this footy club and Shaun's been a pivotal part in that."