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A tale of two racists

By Stephen Hagan - posted Thursday, 11 September 2008

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832) referred to as “German’s greatest man of letters,” once said: “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”

With the final series in our football codes approaching the business end of the season, anticipation among fans has reached fever pitch. So even are the teams at the moment that it may well come down to percentages for and against to decide their final eight compositions.

As an avid rugby league supporter I cheer on the North Queensland Cowboys, Gold Coast Titans and the Melbourne Storm. Of late I’ve developed a healthy awareness for other codes and have become partial to Port Adelaide Power, Brisbane Lions and Hawthorn Hawks in Aussie Rules and follow New South Wales Waratahs in the Super 14 rugby union.


I guess in many ways my preference in team colours are shaped by the colour of the team. More specifically I tend to choose teams with the highest representation of Indigenous footballers as the prime reason for my viewing rights and then I grade them on their entertainment value throughout the season.

Names synonymous with their respective codes like Thurston, Franklin, and Tahu are household names recognised nationally and internationally. Sporting commentators call them “freakish” and “worth the entrance fee alone to witness their extraordinary skills on display”.

These are great athletes. Their brilliance transcends race in an often volatile sporting landscape that has produced more than its fair share of ugly spectators venting their racist spleen from the comfort of a crowded grandstand.

Of all the codes I must admit I thought rugby union, the big dollar drawcard for cross-code hopping (think Sonny Bill Williams and Timana Tahu), was exemplary with its crowd behaviour. I guess I presumed that the audience, many with backgrounds from private school education and big corporate dollar sponsorship, equated to a more refined and knowledgeable spectator base that rose above unsavoury antics periodically associated with their poorer cousins in the NRL and AFL.

But a conversation I had recently with a concerned mother caste serious doubt on my previously held views on the propriety of rugby union spectators.

After a screening of our documentary Nigger Lovers in Toowoomba Christine approached Rhonda and I to congratulate us on our film and our long unwavering public campaign to rid the E.S. “Nigger” Brown Stand sign of its offending word.


She also asked if we could spare her a couple of minutes to share a pertinent story of racism that she encountered recently while attending the All Blacks v Springboks game in New Zealand. Christine said she wanted to share her story with us because: “… your strength inspired me to stand up for what I believe in at a recent All Blacks game in Dunedin.”

Christine prefaced her comments by saying “The thing to remember about an All Blacks game is that rugby is almost a national religion in New Zealand. The All Blacks represent a collective identity and pride.”

As a Pakeha (white New Zealander) Christine said she was aware that racism existed in New Zealand, because some white people believe it is OK to espouse racism around other white people, believing they are safe and among the converted.

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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