Brownlow Medallist Robert “Dipper” DiPierdomenico has been stood down as an AFL Auskick ambassador after admitting to a racist slur.
The Hawthorn premiership player admitted to describing fellow Brownlow Medallist Gavin Wanganeen, a Port Adelaide and Essendon premiership player, as “not too bad for an Abo”.
The comment was made at a football function in the South Australian town of Hahndorf last week.
DiPierdomenico’s admission comes after the furore over a racist remark made by former Richmond player Mal Brown at another football function on Wednesday.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said he did not believe DiPierdomenico was racist, but the comment was totally unacceptable.
“He has acknowledged he has said it … he is very remorseful about what he said,” Demetriou told Fairfax radio on Friday.
“It’s just fresh across my desk…. The great irony of this is that Dipper just spent the last week in the Northern Territory fishing with (indigenous former AFL player) Michael Long for a 60 Minutes feature that we’re doing on his role that he plays with some of our young indigenous players who just went to South Africa.”
“This is a bizarre … completely stupid statement by him,” Demetriou said.
He said the AFL was still deciding how to sanction DiPierdomenico, but it was clear he had to be stripped, at least temporarily, of his role as the face of Auskick, the league’s national program that introduces children to Australian Rules football.
“I don’t think he can continue on in that gig in the short term…. We will deal with this and deal with it swiftly,” he said.
Speaking at the launch of a review into the human rights of African Australians on Friday, Demetriou said tackling racism in the AFL and the wider community was an ongoing battle.
“We have seen this with the furore in recent days that this is a battle we, as a community, have to keep fighting for as long as it takes; that people have to understand that these (comments) are hurtful, and they do hurt, and insulting comments from a bygone era have no place in our game, in our grandstands or in the wider community today,” he said.
“It’s ironic that we’re launching this today on the back of (those) comments,” Demetriou said.
Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said the racist comments from the two former AFL players should be a lesson to other public figures.
“Can anybody who is a public figure, who is a role model, who is a leader in this country, please engage your brain before you put your mouth into gear?” he said, also speaking at the launch on Friday.
“You are a public figure and your words have an impact.”
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has also weighed into the furore, labelling Mal Brown’s racist comment as “completely unacceptable”.
Ms Gillard said the AFL has done much to help society think about questions involving indigenous players and address racism through events such as Dreamtime at the G.
“We want to see more of that and less of the kind of statements made by Mal Brown,” she said.