AFL apologises for forcing vaccine on Indigenous stars
The AFL has apologised "unreservedly" for its decision to force the competition's 87 indigenous players to have pneumococcal vaccinations before entering their clubs' Queensland hubs.
The apology follows months of discussions between the AFL Players' Association and league chiefs.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and their families were distressed at an AFL directive in July that "discriminated against" them by singling them out from white teammates to be given the vaccinations.
The AFL has conceded that its actions and communications "failed to sufficiently consider or ensure adherence with cultural safety principles".
The league has also agreed to better involve indigenous players in all future decisions that will impact them.
But it remains unclear who at the AFL made the decision to order the vaccinations and the reasons why.
Concerns about the vaccination order were raised by a group of indigenous players and staff after the AFL and its clubs moved en masse to Queensland.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said in a statement on Tuesday: "On behalf of the AFL I sincerely apologise to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, staff and families for any distress this issue caused."
Hawthorn star and AFLPA indigenous advisory board chair Shaun Burgoyne said: "It was of utmost importance to the players that their concerns around this serious issue were heard and addressed, not just for players and their families, but for our Indigenous community more broadly.
"The handling of this situation demonstrated a lack of cultural awareness and safety by the AFL, and the players and their families were impacted as a result. It was done without appropriate thought, and without appropriate consultation with our representatives we were left without a voice.
"For too long, Indigenous voices have been neglected in matters that impact them, and we hope this issue is a catalyst for positive change.
"The IAB is pleased to see the industry commit to actions that will ensure this situation is to never happen again.
"By ensuring that Indigenous players are central to the decisions that impact them, we are confident that we have paved a more positive future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our great game.
"The players would like to thank the AFLPA for supporting us through the process and advocating on our behalf to reach this outcome."
Burgoyne said the players acknowledged the AFL had taken full responsibility.
AFLPA boss Paul Marsh said: "The situation has highlighted that whilst we have made progress as an industry on matters relating to our Indigenous players, we still have a long way to go.
"It was completely unacceptable for our Indigenous players to be discriminated against by requiring only them to be vaccinated, and this has had a deep impact on many of our Indigenous players and their families, as well as some club staff."
The AFL has agreed to a series of recommendations following the review, including safety training programs, mental health support, an incident reporting system and further education.
Originally published as AFL apologises for forcing vaccine on Indigenous stars