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Port Adelaide’s pain over racism after long and proud Indigenous history

Email Port Adelaide's pain at being linked with racism after long and proud Indigenous history By Loukas Founten

Posted August 23, 2016 16:18:55

Photo: Richie Bray celebrating Port Adelaide's 1963 premiership win. (Supplied: Port Adelaide Football Club) Related Story: Banana-throwing football fan fined by police over Betts incident Related Story: Betts banana-thrower regrets 'momentary lapse of judgement' Map: Port Adelaide 5015

Being linked with racism is painful for any club, but the hurt is particularly deep at Port Adelaide, a club with a rich and celebrated history of Indigenous players and supporters.

Key points:

  • Malcolm Cooper was Port Adelaide's first Indigenous player in 1954
  • Club runs extensive Indigenous programs across SA and NT
  • Saturday's incident is a chance to create a conversation

Like its unique black and white prison bars guernsey, the club has long found strength in black and white being side by side, both on and off the field.

The first Indigenous player to wear the jumper during a premiership celebration was Richie Bray.

The explosive wingman helped his Magpie teammates win premierships in 1962, 63 and 65.

But Port Adelaide's first documented Indigenous player came some years before Bray's first game in 1959.

Malcolm Cooper managed five games in 1954-55 before being a founding member and first president of the Aboriginal Progress Association.

Since Cooper's debut, 53 other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have represented Port Adelaide in the AFL and SANFL.

Nine have won premierships, one a Norm Smith medal, and the club's first AFL captain was Gavin Wanganeen, a man proud of his Aboriginal heritage.

The club currently has eight AFL and two SANFL-listed footballers of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, second only in AFL numbers to Fremantle with nine.

Port Adelaide's long list of Indigenous initiatives

Port Adelaide's Aboriginal programs manager Paul Vandenbergh was quick to remind the public of the club's long and proud history in the wake of the infamous banana-throwing incident during Saturday's Showdown match against the Adelaide Crows.

The club is equally proud of its off-field programs, which promote the welfare, education and employment of Aboriginal youth across SA and the Northern Territory.

Australian rules will always be wild but racism should be out of bounds

racism-should-be-out-of-bounds-data Port Adelaide's pain over racism after long and proud Indigenous history

Spectators can go feral during two hours of the world's greatest game, but no level of passion makes racism acceptable, writes ABC journalist Malcolm Sutton.

That includes the Aboriginal Power Cup — the longest running program of its kind in the AFL.

It targets Aboriginal students in years 10 to 12 with a focus on education, healthy lifestyle choices and developing teamwork, leadership and life skills.

The club also has Aboriginal player and leadership academies and a focus on delivering programs and AFL games to Aboriginal communities in SA and the NT.

Port's Cultural Awareness Program is run for all players and staff, as well as others who want to take part.

And in June 2013 the Port Adelaide Football Club became the first major sporting organisation across the nation to campaign for constitutional recognition for Aboriginal people when it joined the Recognise movement.

All of this means the club also has a large and growing Indigenous supporter base.

The AFL's former head of diversity Jason Mifsud described Port Adelaide's commitment to Indigenous Australians as "courageous" and its work "outstrips any other club five to one".

That is why it is so painful that in one ignorant moment when a Port Adelaide member threw a banana at a star Indigenous player on field, racism in sport was brought back to national discussion.

7052910-3x2-700x467 Port Adelaide's pain over racism after long and proud Indigenous history Photo: Sydney Swans fans holds banners in support of Adam Goodes after racial controversy in 2015. (AAP: David Moir)

A shadow cast over good work

The latest incident happened a year after Indigenous player Adam Goodes was almost booed into retirement in a different racial incident during AFL games interstate.

But while the banana-throwing incident could have become the proverbial banana skin for Port Adelaide, the club is determined not to let slip its commitment to Indigenous players, communities and issues.

"As a club we have the [second] most Aboriginal players on our list, we have some fantastic programs that are league leading and I guess we probably thought that our fans would know better, but that's okay," Mr Vandenbergh said.

"It's moments like this that help create the conversation and that's a conversation that we want to have to change the mindset of the minority of people.

"This isn't a Port Adelaide issue, this is an AFL issue, this is an Australian society issue still and we as a club want to bring people together. We still know that there's a way to go around educating people and we're willing to do that."

It is another episode in a long story of black and white.

Topics: australian-football-league, community-and-society, sport, port-adelaide-5015, sa

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