Indigenous AFL icon Eddie Betts has weighed in on the booing controversy surrounding Swans superstar Buddy Franklin, amid suggestions from within AFL circles that the bizarre treatment of the two-time premiership champion was racially motivated. Franklin was relentlessly booed by a section of Collingwood fans during his side's 29-point loss at the MCG on Sunday, prompting backlash from across the AFL world and a formal apology from the Magpies.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley was among one of the strongest voices to condemn the viewing, labelling it "at worst... ignorance and bigotry". Others such as Kangaroos' legend Wayne Carey and Essendon great Matthew Lloyd have argued that supporters have every right to express their passion in such a way, so long as it's not racist or discriminatory.
'THOUGHT I'D DIE': Brendan Fevola spills beans on frightening ordeal
'CALM DOWN': Wayne Carey's shock take on 'disgusting' Buddy saga
Swans coach John Longmire also slammed the treatment of the four-time All Australian but insisted the booing had not affected his player. Franklin has so far only offered a brief comment on the issue after being doorstopped at training. “I’ve not got much to say, everything’s already been said so I’m not going to talk about it," he said.
While only the booing Collingwood fans will know if their actions towards Franklin were racially motivated or not, Betts insists that it does constitute racism if the Swans star views it that way. “What everybody needs to understand about racism is that it’s not up for discussion,” Betts said.
“If you haven’t been racially vilified or you don’t understand it or you haven’t felt it, the most important person in this is Buddy. And if Buddy thinks it’s racist, it’s racist. If he doesn’t think it’s racist, it’s not racist.
“So the most important person is how Buddy feels... The more conversations we have, the more we educate each other, the better we’re going to be as a nation. But we’re on the right path.”
AFL greats say fans have the right to boo
Carey, argued that supporters had every right to boo players if they wanted to and labelled the Franklin debate an "overreaction" from the AFL community. The premiership winner took to social media this week to vent his frustrations.
“What an overreaction re Buddy booing ... What about Jack (Ginnivan) and Jason (Horne-Francis) in the last 2 yrs for example," Carey posted on Twitter. “Gil (AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan) on the front foot only because of Adam (Goodes)?? Not the same thing!! Everyone calm down. Leading the news surprise surprise.”
Carey was alluding to the treatment of former Swans great and fellow Indigenous star Adam Goodes, who has spoken openly about the racist taunts and booing from fans that marred the back end of his career. AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has admitted that the AFL should have done more in support of Goodes, who declined his Australian Football Hall of Fame inclusion in 2021 and did not attend the event.
The AFL boss came out to strongly condemn the booing of Franklin and other stars in the sport, and insisted that it had no place in the game. "All players have the right to be treated respectfully on-field," McLachlan said.
"We want everyone to go to a game and express themselves, the passion for the contest and the voice of the crowd is what sets our competition apart. However, we don't accept excessive booing as part of our game."
However, Essendon legend Lloyd said it was no different from rival fans booing champion players of yesteryear such as Gary Ablett Sr. He said as long as it didn't amount to racism or bigotry, then fans had every right to boo.
“I think we have to be careful we’re not getting that soft as a society there is still room for it,” Lloyd said on Nine's Footy Classified. “If there’s any tone towards racism, I understand that, but there are champion players of the game I remember growing up with, Carey, Ablett Senior, and (Tony) Lockett, we’re decades on from that, but if you want to try and get under the skin of somebody, when I used to turn up to Adelaide Oval or Footy Park, there has to be room for it.
“Some would be booing Lance because he’s a champion. Average players don’t get booed.”
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.