'Offensive to me': AFL's 'hypocritical' racism stance under fire

Joel Wilkinson says he finds the AFL's support for the BLM movement hypocritical. Pic: Getty

Former Gold Coast Suns footballer Joel Wilkinson has detailed his experience of racism within the AFL and says the league's interest in the Black Lives Matter movement is hypocritical.

Wilkinson said the AFL's support of the movement shouldn't be accepted when they had failed black players who had spoken out against racism, citing the experiences of Heritier Lumumba and Adam Goodes, along with his own.

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"The AFL's interest in the Black Lives Matter movement is hypocritical and offensive to me, and many in the black community, given my personal experience in what I consider a deeply racist institution," Wilkinson wrote in a post on publishing platform Medium.

"White players across the league recently 'took a knee,' although I know most, if not all, do not comprehend or value the true meaning behind such actions.

"The act of kneeling, first initiated by Colin Kaepernick, was to protest police brutality, murders and oppression of black people in America. He was blackballed by the NFL."

In the post Wilkinson, who is of Nigerian descent, wrote about experiencing racist vilification from players, coaches and crowds throughout his time in the AFL.

In 2011 Wilkinson, then aged 19, was racially abused by Western Bulldogs rival Justin Sherman in his debut match for the Suns.

The following season Wilkinson was racially vilified by a Collingwood member.

Wilkinson claimed recruiting departments from multiple teams had considered his unapologetic, anti-racist stance a "problem", while player agents were "complicit".

Claims AFL dismissed issues of racism

He also said executives and staff across different teams had dismissed his consistent complaints regarding racial incidents.

"I continually spoke out against racism in the AFL and greater society, starting with my first professional game," Wilkinson said.

Former Suns player Wilkinson claims racist concerns of his were ignored during his playing days. Pic: Getty

"I was then dismissed, silenced from the conversation, and erased from the AFL's and Australia's long history of racism in sport."

In May 2018, Wilkinson filed a complaint of systemic racism by the AFL with the Human Rights Commission.

In his post, he said he had removed himself from legal proceedings towards the end of 2019 as he was being "pushed into settlement with a non-disclosure agreement".

Wilkinson played 26 AFL games for the Suns between 2011 and 2013, when he was delisted.

He then spent two years at former Carlton VFL affiliate Northern Blues before heading to America to pursue a career in the NFL.

Wilkinson signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2016 but was cut after three months.