The AFL, Western Bulldogs and St Kilda have presented a united front in condemning the racial abuse directed at Bulldogs forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan during last weekend's shock loss to the Saints. It's the latest in a string of racial abuse to be reported in the last year, with seven other players reporting such instances in the past 12 months.
The Bulldogs described the comments directed at Ugle-Hagan as 'harmful and abhorrent', while their opponents St Kilda vowed to work with the AFL to uncover the spectator responsible. It is unclear yet whether the comments were made by a Saints member or general ticketholder.
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“Racism of any kind does not belong in our game, nor in our society. We cannot tolerate it,” the Bulldogs' statement read. “Comments like these are extremely upsetting and cause significant hurt and harm for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
"They are said to intentionally harm, and we continue to be confronted by them as a community. We’re saddened by the constant need to reinforce the negative impact this has on the individuals concerned, and all First Nations people.”
The Saints recorded a surprise 14.8 (92) to 5.11 (41) victory at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night to condemn Luke Beveridge's charges to a 0-2 start. However the abuse of Ugle-Hagan put a slight dampener of the win and was felt around the league.
Melbourne Demons skipper Christian Petracca was asked about the incident on KIIS 101.1’s Jase & Lauren show on Monday morning, and said the issue was about far more than one moronic comment directed at one player. He said the incidents had a profound effect on Indigenous players, who he said are often reluctant to call it out so as to not 'cause a scene'.
Enough is enough.
The Western Bulldogs strongly condemns the harmful and abhorrent racist remarks aimed at Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, during and following last night’s match against St Kilda.https://t.co/dgzESfaQlG
— Western Bulldogs (@westernbulldogs) March 26, 2023
“My thoughts [on the abuse] are it is just disgusting. I don’t really get it to be honest, it is just fundamentally so wrong," Petracca said.
"He is a 21-year-old kid. We are not just footballers; we are human beings. Yes, we play the games, but especially indigenous players, they bring so much fun and enjoyment to the games, they put more bums on the seats than anyone else do.
"You go to games to watch indigenous players – Eddie Betts, Kozzy Pickett, Jamarra, like these types of players. As a society, we take one step forward with this stuff and we say we are getting better and you see things like this and it’s another, four-five steps backwards. It really is so wrong.
“I lived with Kozzy Pickett and Toby Bedford, who are two indigenous players, two indigenous human-beings and the stuff behind the scenes that you don’t see on social media or Instagram or direct messages is worse and they wouldn’t even speak out because they don’t want to cause a scene.”
Bulldogs, Saints and AFL united in stand against Jamarra Ugle-Hagan abuse
St Kilda say they are united with the Bulldogs in attempting to stamp out racism. "To be repeatedly addressing these repugnant instances of racism is a blight on our game and society," the Saints said in a statement.
"We will continue to stamp out and call out this unacceptable behaviour by having these important conversations, as well as make ongoing education available for the wider community. As a club, we are committed to building greater awareness of the harm caused through comments such as these."
The AFL confirmed it is investigating the matter, working towards identifying the individuals concerned. "Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is a young 20-year-old player trying to forge a career as an AFL footballer," the league said in a statement. "An impressive young man in which part of his pride and strength comes from his family. We stand with his family in calling out the racist comments, comments that cause significant hurt and harm for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."
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