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Racial abuse still happens, says AFL star

Collingwood defender Harry O’Brien says he’s not surprised at the latest incident of an AFL player being racially abused by fans.


Several Collingwood supporters hurled racial abuse at West Coast’s Nic Naitanui, who is of Fijian descent, during Saturday’s qualifying final at the MCG.

Some fans were removed from the area behind the goals and others were reprimanded, according to a report in the Sunday Herald Sun newspaper.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said he had zero tolerance for racial abuse while Eagles chief Trevor Nisbett described the behaviour of the fans in question as disgraceful.

O’Brien said he had also been racially abused during his time playing in the AFL feeder competition the VFL.

The 24-year-old AFL premiership player lectured the media on Monday for not doing enough to spread awareness of racial issues.

“I’m not surprised we still hear of people being racist, yelling racial taunts,” O’Brien told OneHD’s One Week At A Time program.

“Racism is not exclusive to the AFL or Collingwood supporters.

“This is an issue that we see in society. You can find isolated incidences in religion, in politics, in education.

“You’ll find they are isolated incidences of ignorance.

“The best way to eradicate ignorance is through creating awareness.

“Whoever yelled those things out to Nic Nat, I truly believe that that person, if they were taken and put into an environment where they have a direct experience and can actually see their commonalities with Nic Nat and probably his family, then their awareness will be opened, their eyes will be opened and they’ll feel that connection so they will refrain from using that sort of language or that sort of behaviour.”

Brazil-born O’Brien said he had been racially abused many times by fans.

“Early on in my career I have heard things, even playing in the VFL starting off, things yelled out to me from behind the fence,” he said.

“That’s one thing I’m very critical of in terms of the media is we seem to be very reactive to isolated incidences.

“We should be focusing the majority of our attention on being proactive and educating people.

“The media has a responsibility because they have the power of influence to give people this direct experience so they don’t feel that disconnection.

“So when it comes time for them to open their mouth and use a word that we don’t agree with, they’ll think twice because they’ve had that direct experience.”

O’Brien, who presented the Dalai Lama with a Collingwood guernsey in Melbourne in July, says he wants to use his platform as a member of a high-profile football team to help others.

O’Brien says the media need to devote more attention to “the crisis in east Africa”

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