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Adam Goodes: retelling of MCG ‘ape’ incident distorts the truth

August 2, 2015

Chip Le Grand

Goodes pointThe history wars are back with us. This time, the chosen battle ground is the MCG on a Friday night two years ago when a young girl called Adam Goodes an ape.

Goodes’s actions that night, we are now being told, is why he is to blame for ugly abuse being hurled his way by opposition supporters. If only Goodes would apologise to the girl, the argument goes, then the crowds and the game and one of the great indigenous champions could all move on.

What tosh.

This is what happened that night.

It was the AFL’s indigenous round, a weekend set aside to ­celebrate Aboriginal culture and the extraordinary achievements of black footballers in the national football code. Sydney was playing Collingwood and with just a few minutes to play, the Swans were well ahead.

The flight of the ball took Goodes over the boundary line, close to the fence. As he did, he heard a voice call him an ape. Goodes was furious. As he turned to see who his abuser was, he was also heartbroken.

 “When I saw it was a young girl — I thought she was 14, that was my initial thought — I was just like, really? I was just like, how can that happen?’’ As it turned out, the girl was 13.

Goodes pointed her out to a ­security guard and told him what she had said. At the final siren, he was so distraught he took no part in his team’s celebrations, and trudged down to the rooms.

Unbeknown to Goodes, the girl was separated from her grandmother and siblings by overzealous security staff and taken to a police holding area. It was an absurd response to a situation demanding sensitivity. When Goodes was later asked whether he wanted to press charges he quickly said no.

The next day, Goodes declared that “racism has a face’’ and on this night, it was a 13-year-old girl. He also added the following: “It is not her fault. She is 13, she is still so innocent. I don’t put any blame on her. Unfortunately, it is what she hears, the environment she has grown up in that has made her think it is OK to call people names. I can guarantee you right now she would have no idea how it makes anyone feel by calling them an ape.’’

He asked there be no teenage witch-hunt.

“I am loving the support of my friends and family and people in the social media. It is fantastic,’’ he said. “But I think the people, the person that needs the most support right now is the little girl.

“People need to get around her. She is 13, she is uneducated. If she wants to pick up the phone and call me I will take that call and I’ll have a conversation with that girl about, you know what, you called me a name and this is how it made me feel.’’

The girl called Goodes. The same day she recounted their conversation: “I’m sorry for calling you racist names and I’ll never do it again. I’m really sorry for what happened. I didn’t know it would be offensive.’’

She also wrote a letter to Goodes: “Dear Adam. It was good to talk to you on the phone. I’m sorry for being racist. I didn’t mean any harm and now I’ll think twice before I speak.’’

That is where the story should have ended. Instead, it is being ­reprised and twisted to cast ­Goodes as a rich and powerful sports star who bullied a little girl.

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