Indigenous former players launch class action, racism, Phil Krakouer

Indigenous former players have launched a class action against Australian Rules football bosses for failing to protect them from racist insults on the field, their lawyers said on Saturday.

The “vile racial abuse” resulted in “life-altering damage” to the players, said Margalit Injury Lawyers, which is handling the claim against the governing Australian Football League.

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“The racial abuse suffered by players was extreme – not just words, but repugnant physical acts such as spitting and violence,” the legal firm’s managing principal Michel Margalit said in a statement provided to AFP.

“The AFL was aware of this racial abuse and, as the keeper of the code, failed to take decisive action to protect players.”

The group of seven former players is led by Phil Krakouer, a star player with North Melbourne in the 1980s.

“I was a 22-year-old kid that tried out for the big league. I was completely naive and full of dreams. I was hoping that great things were going to happen. It was a professional sport and the AFL allowed us to be abused and traumatised,” Krakouer said.

“We signed up to play football, not to be racially abused.”

Others are expected to join the suit, which covers Indigenous people who were AFL players or officials from 1975 to 2022, the lawyers said.

The AFL was contacted for comment.

Byron Pickett, Jim Krakouer, Daniel Wells, Barry Cable, Lindsay Thomas, Phil Krakouer and Jed Anderson. Picture: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

In a copy of the writ filed with the Supreme Court of Victoria late on Friday, the players allege that the AFL breached its duty to them by failing to enforce rules to prevent the racist abuse.

The suit comes before Australia holds an October 14 referendum on whether to give Indigenous Australians a constitutionally enshrined right to be consulted on matters that affect them, helping to address centuries-old inequalities.

The AFL began proactively trying to tackle racism in the 1990s, adopting a policy that made it an offence for players or officials to insult someone because of their race, religion, ethnicity, colour, nationality or background.

But problems among fans and in the online space persist.

In May, the AFL said nine fans had been slapped with lifetime bans for racially abusing players under new rules intended to stamp out the scourge.

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