The Australian Football League (AFL) says it is investigating “very serious accusations” made by indigenous players who say they were racially abused by a head coach at Hawthorn in Melbourne.
A former Hawthorn player told ABC that the then club coach told him that interrupt her partner’s pregnancy. Three indigenous families involved in Hawthorn during the same man’s stint as coach from 2005 to 2021 told ABC who were allegedly harassed and they were told to choose between their football careers and their families.
Indigenous players on Australian rules teams have often complained about the crowd abuse in stadiums, including several star players. But this is the first time that a team’s coaching staff has faced serious accusations of racism.
Hawthorn this year commissioned an external review of allegations of racism at the club during that person’s tenure as manager. The external review document was delivered to Hawthorn’s leadership and the AFL’s integrity unit two weeks ago.
“The experiences described in the document are extremely serious and require further and more comprehensive examination,” 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 shared their experiences to further its investigation.”
Hawthorn added that the review “raised allegations historical haunting that require further investigation.”
ABC reported that the document included accusations from key Hawthorn figures demanding the separation of young indigenous players from their partners. He said that a couple was pressured to terminate a pregnancy for the sake of the player’s career.
The player told ABC that a group of coaches, including the head coach and his assistant, urged terminate her partner’s pregnancy, break up with her partner, and move into the home of an assistant trainer.
“(He) just leaned over me and demanded that I have to get rid of my unborn child and my partner”, said the player, who was not identified, to ABC.
“Then I manipulated and they convinced me to remove the SIM card from my phone so there would be no more contact between me and my family. They told me I would be living with one of the other coaches from that night on.”
Later on Wednesday, the Brisbane Lions said in a statement that they were aware “senior coach Chris Fagan will be working with the AFL on an investigation into allegations of historic events at Hawthorn Football Club, where he was a former employee.”
“Chris supports and welcomes the investigation,” the Lions statement added. “He was not consulted during the Hawthorn-sponsored review and he hopes to have the opportunity to be heard as part of the AFL investigation. The Brisbane Lions and Chris have mutually agreed that he will take a leave of absence from the club in order to fully cooperate with the investigation.”
Fagan worked with Hawthorn’s head coach Alastair Clarkson at the Melbourne club during that time period. ABC named Clarkson as the main subject of the investigation.
Clarkson, who was expected to take up his head coaching duties at North Melbourne in November, released a statement to address the claims.
“The health, care and well-being of our players, staff and their families were always my top priorities during my time at Hawthorn,” Clarkson said. “Therefore, I was shocked by the extremely serious allegations reported in the media today.”
“I was afforded no due process and I refute any allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct and I look forward to the opportunity to be heard as part of the AFL’s external investigation.”
(with information from AP)
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