HAWTHORN star Shaun Burgoyne is heading an AFL campaign promoting Indigenous Round that features a re-enactment of Nicky Winmar’s Victoria Park anti-racism statement.
The quartet lift their shirts and proudly point to their skin as Winmar did, with the actions of the St Kilda star and the 1995 Michael Long-Damian Monkhorst vilification case ushering in a new age in which racism was tackled in the AFL.
Burgoyne and Walker said they were proud to be playing in an era with few racism incidents after the abuse hurled at past generations.
The Hawks midfielder helped generate the idea for the ad, to screen starting Monday, and enlisted Ryder, Walker and Thomas to promote the Indigenous Round in a fortnight.
“It is 20 years since the Nick Winmar incident at Victoria Park and I was really happy and privileged to be part of a campaign that takes something pretty ugly and negative at the time which turns it into the positives which we have today,” Burgoyne said.
“There is still some work to do, but we have come so far in those 20 years. I saw the photo when I was younger and probably didn’t understand what was going on at the time, but as you go through school and talk to people you understand the significance of the moment and what Nicky and other players in the AFL went through.
“They were doing it to take a stance. It brought in a rule which protects indigenous and multicultural players. You have a right to come to work and feel safe and secure.”
Carlton forward Walker, one of a handful of Victorian indigenous players in the league, remains in close contact with his grandfather Archie Walker, who grew up around the Echuca-Moama area.
He has grown increasingly fascinated in his heritage, and says he jumped at the chance to promote the indigenous game.
“I was talking to Shaun Burgoyne not long ago and he said there was an opportunity to do something. It has been 20 years since Nicky pulled up his shirt and pointed to his stomach and it is still recognised as the turning point in racism,” Walker said. “Shaun is a real role model and leader in the indigenous community and I think it’s a great thing he’s done.
“It is certainly disappointing to hear about a few recent cases in the AFL that shows racism is still around the place, but I think it is being stamped out and I am glad people are being made accountable for their actions. It is great the AFL is taking a strong stance on racism.”
Collingwood midfielder Dale Thomas reported a racist Pies fan who had abused Gold Coast’s Joel Wilkinson last year, an action Walker lauded.
“That was fantastic because it usually takes a player who has had a racial slur directed at them to make a stand, but it was great that someone like Daisy Thomas would stand up,” he said.
“Everyone wants to stamp out racism completely and it’s great the AFL and AFLPA and players are on the same page.”