SYDNEY • Australian Rules fans, players and teams have rallied in support of Adam Goodes, the Aboriginal footballer who had been granted leave by the Sydney Swans because of the incessant booing he faced during matches.
One of the most accomplished players to have featured in the hugely-popular indigenous football code, he was given an indeterminate leave of absence by his club after being jeered relentlessly and racially abused in Perth last weekend.
The fallout from the incident, only the latest that Goodes had faced in Australian Football League (AFL) matches over the last year, triggered a debate over racism.
It has convulsed the media and drawn in politicians from the Prime Minister down.
Yesterday, it was the turn of Goodes' team-mates, fellow players and the fans to have their say.
Two newspapers used their front pages to highlight the issue.
The Sydney Morning Herald printed a wraparound cover which could be used as a banner saying: "I stand with Adam."
A monochrome portrait of Goodes appeared on the front page of its Melbourne sister newspaper The Age, along with the legend that said: "It's black & white, it's racism and it's wrong."
Supporters of Goodes said the abuse results from the 35-year-old's outspoken advocacy for the rights of indigenous Australians. However, the critics noted that the barracking is aimed solely at the player as an individual and that he is "playing the victim".
Swans chairman Andrew Pridham left no one in any doubt about which camp he sat in when he set the tone for the day at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
"Some find his message and actions confronting," he told a function before the Swans match.
"But the issue of racism is so deep-seated nothing short of confronting can change the tide of generations of prejudice."
Swans players ran out through a banner proclaiming "Respect" in huge letters before the match against the Adelaide Crows.
Banners around the ground expressed solidarity with Goodes with his jersey number "37" and the Aboriginal flag prominent.