AFL falls short on condemning Jeff Kennett's comments

Less than two weeks after issuing an unreserved apology to Adam Goodes for its failure to combat racist elements in the sport, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan again missed an opportunity to take a firm stance against racism on Tuesday afternoon.

The final three seasons of Swans champion Goodes' career were blighted by continuous booing and casual racism from many across the AFL landscape.

This year, two documentaries delving into Goodes' exit from the game again sparked a debate about racism in sport, and in early June the AFL and its 18 clubs issued an unreserved apology to the former Swans champion.

"Adam, who represents so much that is good and unique about our game, was subject to treatment that drove him from football. The game did not do enough to stand with him, and call it out," the statement said. "We apologise unreservedly for our failures during this period."

The statement continued, saying the football community "pledged to continue to fight all forms of racism and discrimination, on and off the field".

"We will stand strongly with all in the football community who experience racism or discrimination. We are unified on this, and never want to see the mistakes of the past repeated."

However, on Tuesday McLachlan missed a chance to put that promise into action.

At a wide-ranging press conference to discuss recent fan angst and overzealous security at AFL venues, McLachlan was quizzed about comments from Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett that added more fuel to an already raging fire.

Kennett claimed the majority of security staff at AFL matches were ill-equipped to make correct calls on fan behaviour due to being "new arrivals" in Australia. Tellingly, he prefaced his comments with "I'm not being racist".

On Tuesday, the Hawks president doubled down on his comments.

"Did I go too far? Well, some of you might say so," Kennett said on SEN. "But I'm certainly not backing away from it at all. I'm not going to be driven into the ground by some sort of bloody political correctness.

"If you don't know the game, if you haven't got a tribe, if you haven't been immersed in football, how are you going to judge what good behaviour is or bad behaviour?

"If you have a look at the footage that I saw on television, these people were either Australian-born and been here for many years - I suspect not - they're more new arrivals, most of our security people."

McLachlan refused to chastise Kennett during his press conference, although he did say he believed the outspoken Hawks president was "wrong." He also added: "If you call out someone based on their appearance and not their ability, you are racially stereotyping and I've told Jeff that."

However, the AFL boss said the league would not sanction Kennett unless a formal complaint was lodged and McLachlan's carefully chosen words failed to cut through.

McLachlan's lack of action coincided with a hastily-made and poorly-written apology from Kennett which was posted to Twitter.

If the league really did pledge to "continue to fight all forms of racism and discrimination, on and off the field," as the Goodes statement promised, then McLachlan had to stare down the barrel of the television cameras and state in no uncertain terms that Kennett would be punished for such a wrong and inflammatory series of comments.

Instead, it was a soft response from a leader whose strength has already been questioned by many throughout a testing 2019 season.