opinion

Five years after Adam Goodes, Australian sport still has a race problem. Just ask Ben Simmons.

Australia doesn’t quite know what to do with Ben Simmons.

As of mid-July, the 23-year-old NBA player became the highest paid Australian athlete of all time.

He’s six foot ten. He’s famous – both in the US and at home. And he has a white mum and a black dad.

On Tuesday night, while visiting Australia, the professional basketballer attempted to enter the gaming floor inside Melbourne’s Crown Casino with three friends.

What does it take to be an Australian sporting hero? Post continues below. 

According to Simmons, a security guard asked a few of them to present their IDs. One man in their group was not asked. He also happened to be white.

The Philadelphia 76ers point guard said he and his friends felt “singled out” by security in a since deleted Instagram story, and inferred they had been racially targeted.

The Casino insists that isn’t the case.

So, was Simmons racially profiled in Melbourne on Tuesday night?

Well. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. What I do know, however, is best summed up by Charlie Pickering who wrote five years ago that as a white person, “I know nothing about racism in Australia”.

Neither does 2GB broadcaster Steve Price, who suggested on The Project that perhaps Simmons was using the Crown incident to plug a documentary he executive produced called The Australian Dream, about the experiences of Indigenous footballer Adam Goodes.

adam goodes
Adam Goodes. Image via Getty.
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There is a profound irony in Price evoking the Goodes example – an athlete whose career was marred by white men yelling that his experience had nothing at all to do with racism.

How fitting.

Neither does Alan Jones, who declared this week that Simmons, "has lost a lot of people very quickly".

"Ben Simmons," he continued, after accusing the athlete of walking past fans who had been lined up for hours, "I know you’re an Australian but go back to America and stay there."

Neither does former AFL player Campbell Brown, who has accused Simmons of not being able to take a joke.

According to Brownlow Medallist Chris Judd, speaking to Triple M, Brown was interviewing Simmons when he said something along the lines of: "We've got a fair bit in common you and I... You're worth $250 million and I'm borderline unemployed and the last thing we have in common is we've both been denied entry to Crown."

Judd said, "Ben Simmons said this interview’s done, cracked it, he stormed out and took the microphone off."

Simmons' response makes sense when we consider that his experience of racism in Australia was reduced – within days – to a punchline.

 

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Born n’ raised ???????? Melbourne, Australia ???? ????

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None of these men, Price, Jones or Brown, can possibly know what racism looks and feels like.

Sydney Roosters star Latrell Mitchell certainly does.

In the same week as Simmons, the 22-year-old Indigenous Australian posted a screenshot to his Instagram account on Sunday night, which featured a message he had been sent on social media.

The racist slur doesn't bear repeating here, but he added: "Shit like this is disappointing. 2019 an (sic) nothing is changing."

The NRL are investigating the identity of the person who posted the comments, in an attempt to have them barred from further games.

Just this year, AFL player Liam Ryan copped racist abuse online, and a Richmond supporter was banned for two years from attending matches.

Allen Christensen, Patrick Ryder and Eddie Betts have also spoken publicly about their experiences with racism over the last few months.

"It's pretty hurtful, it's really disappointing that another Aboriginal man is standing up here with this happening to us again," Ryder said.

"It's an attack on our culture and on our people."

Listen to Mamamia's podcast, Tiddas 4 Tiddas, which explores the life stories of some of the countries deadliest Indigenous sisters. Post continues below. 

It has not even been a month since the Adam Goodes documentary, The Final Quarter, aired on Network 10.

Five years was how long it took for Australia to finally look itself in the mirror.

The hashtag #IStandWithAdam had barely stopped trending when we began rolling our eyes – yet again – at a black man who cried racism.

It's as though as a culture we're suffering from collective amnesia, unable to apply the lessons of the past to the present and future.

If Simmons says he was racially profiled in Melbourne on Tuesday night, I'm inclined to believe him.

He's the expert.

If there's one things we've learned, it's that white, powerful men in suits, certainly are not.

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