Australian team management have reached out to the former Sydney Swans footballer Adam Goodes to speak to them about the nation’s history of racial discrimination and the evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement, as they ponder how to engage with the issue after declining to take a knee during their limited-overs tour of England.
The Australia head coach Justin Langer, having previously admitted that the team did not commit enough thought to the area prior to the England matches, said that Cricket Australia had been in touch with Goodes among others as part of their effort to discuss issues around racism with the national men’s team ahead of the home fixtures against India.
Langer said he had spoken personally with an Aboriginal elder as he sought to understand the history of taking the knee, a globally recognised gesture that has been employed by several WBBL teams in the past week.
Goodes’ career as one of the most decorated players in AFL history was marred by oppressive, racially motivated booing over the final phase of his career, an episode that all parties have since admitted should have been more boldly handled in terms of pushing back against the crowds that continued to do it. The saga has been the subject of two documentaries, The Final Quarter and the Australian Dream, but Australia’s players would like more in-person discussion before the India series begins.
“We have to be really strong on this, we have to lead it. There’s a meeting between a few of us this afternoon,” Langer said. “I know Adam Cassidy at Cricket Australia is really strong and excellent in leading us on all this. We need to be educated and be really clear on what we standing for. We want to lead the representation of this.
“Now we’re working through talking to Aboriginal elders, talking to people, hopefully like Adam Goodes, [cultural commentator] Stan Grant was a really good idea in an email with me last night, we’ve got to be really clear, take our time and make sure we’re really strong on the messages and what we’re representing here.
“I don’t know Adam personally. I know Adam Gilchrist knows him well, he tells me he’s one of the greatest people he’s ever met in his life. Having watched Adam’s documentary I was blown away by that. There’s a lot of great people in Australia, who I’m sure will help the Australian cricket team represent racial discrimination with the respect and dignity it deserves. It’s one of the things I’ve learned in this job and in life.
“We are very, very fortunate that because we represent the Australian cricket team that we can reach out to a whole number of people. Hopefully when we come back together we can be better educated on this issue.”
Asked specifically about whether or not the team would consider taking a knee, Langer said he was in the midst of a discussion on precisely that topic. “I’m glad you’ve asked the question. I was with an Aboriginal elder last night,” he said. “One of my follow-up questions to him today, I want to understand the history of taking a knee. We talk about Barefoot Circles, we’ve talked about a number of things, different initiatives or ways of representing this. I really want to know the significance of that and if that’s the best way to represent it.
“I want to hear it from our Aboriginal elders, from people who have experienced racial discrimination. I haven’t [experienced it], I want to hear it and what the best way forward is. As I said to you guys a little while ago we’re really aware of it, it’s a very important issue in our society at the moment and we want to make sure we do it and represent it with great respect and dignity. Whether it’s taking a knee, we’ll come up with that in the next little bit. It’s certainly front of mind at the moment.”