Hawthorn racism: Jeff Kennett describes report as ‘unfair’ and ‘ ‘bump along the highway’ at club awards
Outgoing Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett has called the leaking of racism allegations at the AFL club “unfair” and hopes the unfolding saga can be resolved by the end of the year.
Speaking at the club’s best and fairest awards function on Saturday night, Kennett said the club is not in crisis and has described the issue as a “bump along the highway”.
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But he told the audience he was “somewhat flabbergasted – and worse” when he read the draft report of the club’s investigation into the experiences of Indigenous players and their partners while at Hawthorn.
That report was handed to the AFL, which will establish a four-person panel to look at the allegations.
Four-time Hawks premiership coach Alastair Clarkson was named in an ABC report last week detailing historic allegations from some Indigenous players.
Earlier on Tuesday, Clarkson’s friend and Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said at a function in Perth that Clarkson is “not in a great place”.
The racism claims were revealed last week, with Clarkson, his then-assistant Chris Fagan and ex-Hawthorn welfare manager Jason Burt named in the ABC report.
On Saturday, The Age also had a report alleging that Clarkson was unsympathetic to Sam Mitchell, now Hawthorn’s coach, when he was playing under him and dealing with family issues.
Clarkson, who was recruited by North Melbourne, and Fagan have stood down from their coaching duties.
“I do not consider this to be a crisis,” Kennett said at the best and fairest night.
“When I read the draft report … I was somewhat flabbergasted – and worse.
“It wasn’t a good read. I hope this matter can be resolved quickly by all parties involved.”
Kennett said the people interviewed for the report had requested confidentiality and Hawthorn respected that.
“Sadly, they made a decision to talk to the press … they named people with whom they had very real issues,” he said.
“That was unfair to those (people), so therefore we need to have this resolved.
“I don’t see this is as a crisis – I know this club, I know its history and I know its strength.
“We will deal with this and assist in any way we can.”
Kennett also said the issues were historic and called on any Hawthorn employees to tell the club at the time if they believe inappropriate behaviour has happened.
“The one thing the investigation showed was that we have a safe cultural workplace now. So these are issues of the past,” he said.
He hopes there can be some form of mediation so any issues can be resolved quickly.
“It could be resolved before the end of the year so people can get on with their lives,” he said.
At the end of his speech, Kennett again insisted the Hawks would “overcome” the issue.
“Understand this as being a bump along the highway, but … it is an important bump and it has to be dealt with professionally,” he said.
“I will not accept the fact that we as a club cannot overcome this latest issue.
“We have the people, we have the desire and we have that indelible ingredient which is togetherness.”
Meanwhile, Hardwick was quoted as speaking at a function before the WAFL grand final.
“He’s not in a great place, let’s be perfectly honest,” Hardwick said of Clarkson.
“To have that accusation and alleged incidents thrown at you and then splashed across the media when you don’t have an opportunity to defend yourself is incredibly disheartening and probably a little bit distasteful.”
Also on Saturday, former Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge supported Clarkson and Fagan in a social media post, and Brisbane star Lachie Neale backed Fagan after winning the Lions’ best and fairest award on Friday night.
Mitchell did not refer to the latest allegations against Clarkson involving him or the racism claims in his speech at the Hawthorn best and fairest count.