Crossing football's colour line

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The African-American American activist, W. E. B. DuBois, claimed that boxer Jack Johnson had an “Unforgiveable Blackness” which challenged America’s institutionalized racism. The same can be said of the Indigenous Australian rules footballer, Adam Goodes. Among the game’s most decorated players and the 2014 Australian of the Year, Goodes considered football an Indigenous game and an expression of his Aboriginality. His career spanned a period in which historians and writers debated football’s origins. A body led by historians Geoffrey Blainey and Gillian Hibbins traced the origins to the English public school, while another group suggested football emanated from the Indigenous game, Marngrook. Goodes was in the latter camp. In 2008 he suggested Indigenous footballers were “born to play,” prompting Hibbins to label his comment “racist.” Goodes’ conviction was challenged in 2013 when he was called an “ape” by a young supporter, and in 2015 when he celebrated a goal with an Indigenous war dance. While Goodes considered it an expression of his culture, opposition supporters and many commentators found it intimidating and offensive. Goodes was subsequently "booed;" an action which the media and the code’s governing body, the Australian Football League (AFL), were slow to criticize. Disillusioned, Goodes retired in 2015 and remains a fringe figure. This paper contends that he, like Johnson, had an "Unforgiveable Blackness." The booing he received revealed the limits of the movement toward Indigenous/non-Indigenous reconciliation. Goodes was not a compliant Aboriginal but viewed by many non-Indigenous Australians as having crossed football’s colour line.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event10th International Conference on Sport & Society - Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 20 Jun 201921 Jun 2019
Conference number: 10,focus%20on%20sports%20media%20vectors.


Conference10th International Conference on Sport & Society
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  • Culture
  • identity
  • Diversity

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