AFL star Nic Naitanui has penned a social media response to yesterday's blackface controversy, where a Perth mother painted her son in brown body paint to emulate the West Coast Eagles footballer. The child went on to win the best-dressed prize at his school's Book Week parade—impressive given the racist connotations of his costume, and the fact that AFL is not a book.
On Twitter, Naitanui—who is of Fijian descent—prefaced his comments about the blackface incident with the disclaimer that even he himself had "encouraged this mistake" in the past, "but I'm now educated of its origins."
"Let's grow together," he said.
Rather than placing blame on the mother or her son, Naitanui emphasised that many people—and especially children—were unaware of the historic connotations of blackface.
This interpretation was generous—in fact, the original post that accompanied the photo of the child in costume seemed to anticipate the outcry that it subsequently caused, with the mother writing that she was worried about "politically incorrect extremists" and that people on Facebook had "told her not to do it."
However, in spite of these warnings, she said she "decided to grow a set of balls and painted my boy brown and he looked fanfuckingtastic."
Her post—which has now been deleted—was widely criticised as racist and ignorant. In response to it, Indigenous rapper Briggs used a Facebook status to dispel the arguments that are typically used to justify blackface costumes in Australia.
Over the course of his AFL career, Naitanui has been the subject of racial abuse from fans multiple times—often while on the pitch. The 26-year-old ruckman has played 145 games for West Coast, and has unfortunately been sidelined for the rest of the AFL season due to a knee injury.
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