PM Abbott calls on fans to 'respect' Goodes
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called on Australian Rules fans to show "respect and civility" to Adam Goodes as support for the Aboriginal footballer continued to build on Friday.
Goodes, one of the best players to have played the hugely-popular indigenous football code, was given an indeterminate leave of absence by his Sydney Swans club after being jeered relentlessly and racially abused in Perth last weekend.
It was the latest case of vilification that Goodes has faced in Australian Football League (AFL) matches over the last year, incidents which have embarrassed the sport and triggered a nationwide debate over racism.
Supporters of Goodes say the abuse results from the 35-year-old's outspoken advocacy for the rights of indigenous Australians, while critics say the barracking is aimed solely at the player as an individual and that he is "playing the victim".
Abbott, in his first comments on an issue which has convulsed the nation this week, said Goodes deserved a basic level of respect even if people did not agree with his views.
"The last thing we want in Australia is anything that smacks of racism," he told Radio 2SM on Friday.
"I can understand why he's upset because no one should be subject to taunts, they particularly shouldn't be subject to racial taunts.
"Adam Goodes is a good bloke and he's a great player and I hope he'll be treated with respect and civility."
The Swans have stood Goodes down for Saturday's match against Adelaide at the Sydney Cricket Ground but still expect him to see out a season he had already said would be his last. Continued...