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AFL guilty of "extreme racism", says former player

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Former Gold Coast player Joel Wilkinson has accused the AFL of “extreme racism” and is determined to take the matter to court.

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A claim will be lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission on either Friday or Monday.

Wilkinson’s lawyer Will Barsby said that two other former players had made contact in the wake of Wilkinson’s accusations against the league.

“I’m here because I won’t be silenced any more and what has happened has been a continuous breach of human rights,” said Wilkinson, reading from a prepared statement today.

“I have suffered extreme racism during my time in the AFL and post my career from the AFL until this very day.

“I am here to hold the AFL accountable and stand against injustice … this is extremely systematic across the AFL.”

Wilkinson said he was looking forward to his day in court and improving the human rights of players.

“It won’t be happening behind closed doors anymore,” he said.

“It seems in recent times the dark works on the inside of the AFL are being revealed and I hope this gives others the courage to come forward.”

Barsby said it was unclear whether the two other former players who had made contact also wanted to take legal action.

“It’s really about whether those individuals want to pursue their legal rights, as Mr Wilkinson has,” Barsby said.

Barsby also claimed that Wilkinson lost his place at the Suns because he became too much trouble.

Joel Wilkinson (right) playing for Gold Coast in 2013. Photo: AAP/Dave Hunt

“He was labelled as a grandstander … Joel experienced much racism during his time (in the AFL) and that has been documented publicly,” he said,

“That became a problem and like any workplace, sometimes an employer doesn’t want to keep that perceived problem child around.

“Joel was very advocating on behalf of his rights and others’ rights and he’s been persecuted because of that.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the AFL said it respected “a person’s right to pursue claims through the legal system”, while noting it was sorry Wilkinson had been racially abused during his time as a footballer.

“We will continue to work with Joel to resolve this matter,” added the AFL.

Wilkinson was racially abused by Western Bulldogs player Justin Sherman during his debut AFL game for Gold Coast in 2011.

The following year, he was racially vilified by a Collingwood supporter during a match.

Wilkinson played 26 matches for the Suns from 2011-13 before being delisted.

– AAP

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