The Australian Football League says it is investigating “very serious allegations” by Indigenous players that they have been racially abused by a coach from Melbourne’s Hawthorn Football Club.
A former Hawthorn player has told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. told that the then AFL club coach had told him to terminate his partner’s pregnancy. Three Indigenous families who were involved with Hawthorn during the same man’s stint as coach between 2005-21 have told the ABC they were allegedly bullied and had to choose between their football careers and their families.
Indigenous players of Australian soccer teams have often complained of abuse from crowds in stadiums, including several star players. But this is the first time a team’s coaching staff has faced serious accusations of racism.
Hawthorn ordered an outside investigation earlier this year into claims of racism at the club during that person’s tenure as coach. The external review paper was given to the Hawthorn hierarchy and the AFL’s integrity unit two weeks ago.
“The experiences described in the document are extremely serious and require further and full investigation,” the AFL said in a statement on Wednesday. “The AFL is finalizing a process to investigate the allegations and has sought further details from those who have shared their experiences to continue the investigation.”
Hawthorn added that the review “raised disturbing historical allegations that require further investigation.”
“When the club learned of these allegations, the club immediately engaged AFL integrity,” a club statement said on Wednesday. “As the matters raised are confidential, the club will not comment further.”
The ABC reported that the document contained allegations of key Hawthorn figures demanding the separation of young Indigenous players from their partners. It said a couple was pressured to end a pregnancy for the sake of the player’s career.
The player told the ABC that a group of coaches, including the head coach and his assistant, urged him to terminate his partner’s pregnancy, break up with his partner and move into an assistant coach’s home.
“(He) just leaned over me and demanded that I get rid of my unborn child and my partner,” the unnamed player told ABC.
“I was then manipulated and convinced to remove my SIM card from my phone so that there was no contact between my family and me. They told me that from that night on I was going to live with one of the other coaches.”
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