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Walker banned for six games, apologises for racist comment

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Crows forward Taylor Walker has been suspended from tomorrow’s Showdown and the last two games of the season as well as the first three games of the 2022 season, after apologising for a racist comment about Indigenous North Adelaide player Robbie Young.

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The AFL this morning announced the results of an inquiry into the incident and a conciliation meeting held yesterday.

“An incident occurred at a SANFL match on July 17, 2021, at Prospect Oval between the Adelaide Football Club and the North Adelaide Football Club,” the AFL said in a statement.

“Taylor Walker of the Adelaide Crows, who was not playing in the match, made a racist comment regarding North Adelaide player, Robbie Young, to an Adelaide Crows teammate who was playing.

“An Adelaide Crows official overheard the comment and reported the incident to the club who reported it to the AFL. The incident was then investigated by the AFL Integrity Unit under the Peek Rule (Rule 35 of the AFL Rules).

“A complaint was laid under the AFL Rules which alleged that Taylor Walker had engaged in prohibited conduct.”

The AFL said that it, Walker, Robbie Young and the Adelaide Crows official who reported the comment held a “successful” conciliation meeting in Adelaide yesterday.

“During the conciliation, Taylor Walker apologised to Robbie Young and the official for his conduct. Both accepted the apology,” it said in a statement.

“Taylor Walker expressed his sincere remorse for his comments and expressed his commitment to being an active participant in addressing racism within the game, and society.”

The AFL statement included an apology from Walker.

“There is no excuse or justification for the words I said. They are unacceptable and I take full accountability for that. I am deeply ashamed. I did not intend to cause harm, but I know and understand that I have caused deep hurt to the official who reported the matter and to Robbie Young, to both of their families and to the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. I apologise to all of them and to the Adelaide and North Adelaide Football Clubs.

“I ask that you respect the wish of the official who reported this matter not to be identified.

“Today’s process has led to a deeper understanding of the hurt that I have caused, and I am embarrassed, ashamed and remorseful.

“The official who reported this showed courage and leadership in calling out what I said, and I am determined to do what I can to emulate his actions.

“I want to be an active participant in addressing racism in our game and the wider community. This starts by educating myself so I can influence others and make a positive difference moving forward.

“I know I need to back up my apology with action, and this is my commitment.”

The conciliation ended with an agreement that Walker will not play in the Crows’ last three games of the season, or the first three games of next season.

The AFL said Walker will also “make a donation in the sum of $20,000 to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program in South Australia” and “undertake an education program”.

The AFL also said that Walker must apologise to Crows players and staff and also apologise to North Adelaide players for his “prohibited conduct”.

The Crows also issued a statement, saying it strongly condemns any form of racial vilification and Walker’s behaviour “in no way reflects its views or values”.

Adelaide CEO Tim Silvers said Walker’s behaviour was “totally unacceptable” and there was no place for racism in football or the community.

“This incident should not have happened and we are sorry that it did, and we endorse and support the sanctions,” Silvers said.

“As a Club, we also understand the impact this behaviour had on the people involved, their families and the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

The fact someone from inside our Club called out the inappropriate comment made by an experienced and well-known player reflects the environment and culture we are trying to create.”

Silvers said Walker had met with the club’s Indigenous players before fronting the entire playing group and football department staff on Friday morning.

To use Taylor’s own words, he is embarrassed, ashamed and remorseful, and he has apologised. We will now provide him with the appropriate support,” he said.

“Everyone in society must work to stamp out racism and our players, coaches and staff are committed to taking a stand against this behaviour.”

North Adelaide Football Club president Andrew Souter said the club was only made aware of the issue this week and was “deeply disappointed by this racially vilifying comment which is unacceptable at any level of our game”.

“Whilst this matter is incredibly disheartening for Robbie and his teammates, he knows he has our full support and remains our main focus at this time as we all wrap our arms around him.”

The AFL Players’ Association CEO Paul Marsh said Walker’s language was “damaging and divisive, and there is no excuse for it”.

The SANFL said it supported the inquiry and penalties and would take no further action on the matter.

AFL Inclusion and Social Policy manager Tanya Hosch, who attended yesterday’s conciliation meeting, said that “racist actions and behaviours are inexcusable”.

“I would like to acknowledge everyone involved in today’s conciliation process, especially the Adelaide official and Mr Young for calling out the behaviour and/or taking a stand against racism by their involvement in this process,” she said.

“I have no doubt Mr Walker is remorseful, understands that his comments can trigger trauma and seriously impact the mental health of the individuals, families and communities involved and he has accepted his sanctions.”

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