Eddie Betts’ plea to AFL clubs after Hawthorn Hawks allegations

AFL star Eddie Betts has opened up about the harrowing moment he was asked to leave a public swimming pool because of the color of his skin.

Betts appeared on AFL360 following explosive allegations against Alastair Clarkson and Hawthorn for their past treatment of First Nations people

In a report published on Wednesday ABC sports alleges that senior Hawthorn officials called for the separation of First Nations players from their partners and pressured a player and his partner to terminate a pregnancy for the sake of his career.

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Four-time Premiership manager Alastair Clarkson was “shocked” when he read the allegations and refuted any wrongdoing or wrongdoing in a statement.

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North Melbourne later confirmed Clarkson’s coaching tenure, due to begin November 1, would be delayed as the allegations were investigated.

The Brisbane Lions also announced that coach Chris Fagan, who served as Clarkson’s top assistant with the Hawks, has been furloughed.

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The ABC claims Fagan and Clarkson did not respond when asked questions about the allegations.

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan confirmed the league would form an outside four-person panel to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.

Alastair Clarkson speaks to the media. Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Betts admitted he continues to face intolerance and said he doesn’t feel like he belongs in Australia.

“I’m being followed by security guards in a store,” he said.

“This year I was in a pool. And the lifeguard came up to me and told me I had to get out of the pool. I held my child, my baby in my hand.

“I found out that two old white elderly people told the lifeguard to tell me to get out of the pool because I was making their grandchild uncomfortable.

“And that just made me feel like I didn’t belong here in Australia because these issues keep coming up.

“Honestly, I don’t feel like I belong here, but my wife keeps pushing me and telling me that of everyone, of everyone, you should feel that you belong here, because this is your country and you should never do it feel that way.”

Betts also made an emotional appeal to clubs to ensure the AFL is safe for young Indigenous children.

“It was difficult reading to read today, but honestly I wasn’t surprised,” he explained.

“Indigenous people face these problems in many systems, in the education system, in the justice system and in the health system. And it always comes back to what I’ve preached many times, and that’s education.

“Every football club should carry out such a review. Every football club should come out and do an external review. Reach out to past and present Indigenous players and see what the Footy Club was like.

“We keep coming back to it. We keep talking about it. You hear me again and again on this show. You know I preach with all my heart when will it stop? when will we grow up when will we learn When do we continue our education?

“And reconciliation, the theme this year has been being brave and making change and it’s difficult and uncomfortable to have those conversations. But you have to be brave. You need to step out of your comfort zone and start having those conversations that challenge it.

“And until we do, and then we could make changes and move forward. But if you know you’re not brave and you don’t speak up, then we won’t make a change.

“People are going to believe what they’re going to believe, but I think it’s tough and it’s tough.

“But I will always believe the players and the brothers.”

The 35-year-old also revealed he knew one of the players who made the Hawthorn allegations and praised the footballer for having the courage to speak out.

“I know one of them that I’m going to reach out to as well,” Betts said.

“I will contact him. I’m just going to tell him how brave he was and ‘thank you for speaking up and bringing this awareness to everyone’ because if he hadn’t spoken up we wouldn’t be going through this and people need to be educated .”

Eddie Betts represented Adelaide and Carlton. Image: Alan BarberSource: News Corp Australia

Four-time Hawthorn Premiership player Jordan Lewis claimed other Hawks players were “not privy” to the alleged incidents detailed in the report.

“Being involved with this football club, I understood the culture and the indigenous players there and the love and care we showed from a playing group perspective, to then realize they had these experiences that we were not protected from , but we weren’t privy to those conversations,” he said AFL 360.

“I can honestly say, hand on heart, that when it came out this morning and you called ex-teammates and Indigenous teammates to see if they knew anything about it, and for a man no one ever heard of anything like it happens in our time there.

“The alleged conversations that took place with these individuals, we as a playgroup were never privy to them or ever shared information to which we had a duty to contribute.

“It’s clearly troubling if these allegations are true and if they happened to these individuals when it should have been a really safe environment.”

The Herald Sun’s Mark Robinson warned that more tragic details of Hawthorn’s investigation into the treatment of First Nations players could emerge in the coming weeks.

“It made me really sad… that we’re in a situation where it’s 2022 and we’re hearing allegations against two notable people in the game,” he said AFL 360.

“I’m reading it right now – it can’t be true. It has to be made up for. And I’m not saying it was made up – but I was so incredulous. I didn’t want to believe it.

“I liken it to the slave trade era — where whites just tell blacks what to think and what to do; Whites tell blacks whether or not you can have a child.

“Can any of us believe that a soccer coach said to an Indigenous player, ‘Your partner needs to have an abortion’.

“If that’s true and Alastair Clarkson said that, he will never be seen in the game again.

“This story is going to go around the sports world – my god. What a horrible day.

“It’s a devilish situation.”

Hawthorn responded to the allegations on Wednesday morning.

“Earlier this year, Hawthorn Football Club engaged outside First Nations advisors to engage with current and former First Nations players and staff to learn more about their experiences at the club,” the club said in a statement.

“This important work has raised disturbing historical claims that warrant further investigation. Upon learning of these allegations, the club immediately contacted AFL Integrity, as appropriate.

“The club will continue to support those who have participated in this process and their well-being remains our priority.

“While the process demonstrated that the current environment at the club is culturally safe, it also recommended that some of the club’s current First Nations training and development programs should be further strengthened.

“The club puts the best interests and well-being of our players and staff first.

“Given that the matters raised are confidential, the club will not be making any further comments at this time.”

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