After he opened up about his suffering from incessant racism and abuse during his career in the 1970s and 1980s, the Australian Football League (AFL) has formally apologised to indigenous former player Robert Muir.
Recruited from the Ballarat Football League, Muir played 68 VFL games over 7 interrupted seasons between 1974 and 1984 and is regarded as a brilliant player who was notorious for angry outbursts on the field, often in response to vicious racial abuse by both opposition fans and on-field players.
The now 66-year-old athlete explained in an interview with state broadcaster ABC that he had been regularly racially abused by opponents, spat on by fans and also urinated upon by his teammates in his time at the St Kilda club in Melbourne.
Muir had faced many challenges in life, such as the fight against depression and alcoholism after his career. He claimed that one of the causes of his battles against depression and alcoholism was because he felt abandoned by his former club and the AFL, which at the weekend celebrated its now annual indigenous round of matches.
“Unfortunately, there are too many stories like this in our code and country’s history,” the league declared.
“We would like Robert to know we acknowledge his story and, along with the St Kilda Football Club, will be making contact to understand further how we can respond, following Robert’s wishes.
“We will be there to assist with a process of recovery and reconciliation and we also understand that there will be similar stories from our game’s past that we need to address.”
St Kilda’s chief executive Matt Finnis, a former head of the players’ union, expressed his opinion about the racism Muir had been subjected to, acknowledging the fact that the club had made “grave errors in the past”.
“We admire Robert’s courage to speak out about the racism he has endured, and lack of support provided by our club when he needed it most,” Finnis declared.
“We apologise unreservedly to Robert and his family and are humbled that he continues to love our club.”
We wonder though, how many times will we still have to deal with these heartless racist issues?