Carlton superstar Eddie Betts has opened up about his regret over the way he approached the Adam Goodes booing saga as one of the AFL’s leading Indigenous voices.
The AFL and each of the 18 clubs apologised to the Sydney Swans star in a statement last year, after consistent racially-motivated booing forced Goodes to retire from the sport in 2015.
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Two separate documentaries, The Final Quarter and The Australian Dream, extensively covered the saga, which prompted the AFL to officially acts years after the fact.
It wasn’t just the league that was forced to take a hard look at itself - Betts says the saga has prompted himself and many other Indigenous AFL players to examine their own response to the crisis.
Betts, who has been a target of racial vilification during games himself, said he was disappointed in himself for not speaking out in support of Goodes at the time.
“We were only seeing the stuff that was happening on weekends and we kind of all feel guilty after watching that documentary for the first time that we didn’t help him out enough,” Betts told GWS Giants captain Phil Davis on his ABC Grandstand podcast.
“I think they’re scared because of what happened to Goodesy, they think it’s going to happen to them.”
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This was a realisation made all the more pertinent by Betts’ own experiences with racism at football games, particularly in the years since Goodes’ retirement.
“It was hard, I was trying to be strong,” Betts said.
“I’m keeping my smile, I kept my personality but inside I was burning and I was hurting so bad.
“I needed someone to talk to, someone to understand me. I needed a culturally safe spot.”
While there were things Betts says he’d do differently if he had his time again, the fan-favourite goalsneak said he was optimistic things would be better for the next generation of Indigenous AFL stars.
The former Adelaide Crow cited himself and Hawthorn champion Shaun Burgoyne as veteran leaders for younger players.
“I want the next generation of young Indigenous kids to come through the AFL system to be safe, to have a voice and to speak up, knowing that Goodesy led the way for us,” he said.
“And hopefully myself and Shaun Burgoyne — the older players that are still around — can create that pathway for young Indigenous players to come through, because it’s hard.”