"The World Is Watching": Joel Wilkinson Calls Out The AFL For Enabling 'Systemic' Racism

Former Gold Coast player Joel Wilkinson has fronted the media with a bombshell statement after launching legal action against the AFL, claiming the racism he allegedly suffered is still very much alive within the sport.

What you need to know
  • Joel Wilkinson delivered his official statement after launching legal action against the AFL
  • He accused the organisation of "extreme racism"
  • Wilkinson's lawyer said two more former players had come forward with similar experiences

Former AFL player Joel Wilkinson is well and truly ready for his day in court.

After launching legal action against the sport's governing body over alleged racial vilification and sexual harassment, Wilkinson today accused the AFL of a dark, systemic racism that, he claims, continues to exist within the organisation to the present day.

"I'm here because I won't be silenced anymore and what has happened has been a continuous breach of human rights," Wilkinson said during his impassioned media appearance.

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

"This is extremely systematic across the AFL. The AFL enables and acts as the head of this system."

The former Gold Coast Suns player says he is determined to improve the human rights of players in the league, and to ensure injustice no longer occurs "behind closed doors".

"Let me make it clear: This isn’t a past issue," he said.

"This is very present, happening now and many players in the system have experiences of racism similar to mine."

Wilkinson's lawyer Will Barsby said a further two former AFL players have reached out to his practice to share their stories of similar experiences within the organisation following his client's public accusations.

"What it does show is the power of one coming forward and it shows a deeper issue within Australian workplaces.” Barsby said.

At this time, Barsby said it was unclear whether the two former players would also take legal action.

Wilkinson play 26 matches for the Gold Coast Suns from 2011-13 before being de-listed. Image: Getty

Wilkinson found himself unable to re-enter the AFL after he was de-listed in 2013, and his lawyers are now claiming the organisation labelled the young player a "grandstander".

"Joel experienced much racism during his time (in the AFL) and that has been documented publicly," Barsby 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."

The AFL released a statement on Wednesday, saying it was "sorry that Mr Wilkinson suffered experiences of racial abuse during his time as an AFL footballer".

"We respect a person's right to pursue claims through the legal system." The statement read. "We will continue to work with Joel to seek to resolve this matter."

Wilkinson slammed the AFL's response to his claims, saying it is "disrespectful to the gravity of the situation".

Over accusations of racism, religious vilification and racially-motivated sexual harrassment, Wilkinson is seeking compensation for loss of past and future wages, as well as compensation for pain, suffering and humiliation. 

It is obvious though that the 26-year-old is set on a higher goal, determined to bring down the insidious system he so vehemently assures the nation exists within the AFL.

"And if the AFL, as a national game, cannot be held accountable, then who will be held accountable in this country?" Wilkinson asked reporters.

"What message will that send to the value of black people in these spaces of employment and in greater society?"

Wilkinson issued the AFL with a clear warning ahead of their ensuing legal battle.

"From this loss of career and suffering, I seek justice." He announced.

"The world is watching."

It is expected Wilkinson will lodge his claim with the Australian Human Rights Commission on either Friday or Monday.