AFL player claims ‘racial abuse, sexual taunting in locker room’
A FORMER AFL player with the Gold Coast Suns, who claims he endured years of racial abuse and sexual harassment during his playing career, is about to launch legal action.
Joel Wilkinson is preparing for a racial vilification and sexual harassment case against the AFL, top clubs, coaches and players, in the Human Rights Commission.
Mr Wilkinson, who is of Nigerian descent, played with the Gold Coast Suns from June,
2011, when he was 19, until he was delisted from the Suns in September, 2013.
Shine Lawyers, along with American Attorney Mika Hilaire, have been advising Mr Wilkinson on his legal options, after discussions with the AFL failed, the law firm said.
Mr Wilkinson claims he was subjected to direct discrimination, vilification and harassment on both racial and religious grounds by AFL staff, his club, club officials and teammates, as well as opposition players and spectators.
The legal case will allege Mr Wilkinson faced racially motivated sexual harassment in the changerooms by other players on numerous occasions.
Mr Wilkinson's lawyers claim his employment contract with the AFL and the Gold Coast Suns was breached, due to conduct which was also in breach of State and Federal anti-discrimination, vilification and harassment laws.
Mr Wilkinson also claims he was not offered future employment with the AFL, the Gold Coast Suns or other clubs because he spoke up about racism against him and because of his association with other players who were also subjected to racial discrimination.
The case is expected to be filed in the Commission by Monday.
Compensation will be sought for loss of past and future wages as well as compensation for pain, suffering and humiliation.
Will Barsby of Shine Lawyers said the Commission would be asked to consider awarding aggravated or exemplary damages.
Joel Wilkinson was nominated for the AFLQ rising star award in 2010 after just four games in the senior league.
He was an AFL Draft combined 20m and repeat sprint record holder and was AFL Queensland State team captain
He was signed by the semi-professional Northern Blues for the 2014 VFL season, in an attempt to be redrafted into the AFL, the law firm said.
Mr Barsby said the AFL had failed in its duty of care to Mr Wilkinson.
It will be alleged the AFL allowed "horrific racial abuse, sexual taunting in the locker room, bullying and mistreatment of Mr Wilkinson to continue, despite repeated requests for help and support".
"In Australia, playing AFL is a full-time job for many young people and like any job there are laws to protect your rights in the workplace," Mr Barsby said.
"The AFL isn't exempt from these laws just because it is a national past time.
"Sport is a business, players are employees.
"The AFL failed to protect Mr Wilkinson from vilification from his very first professional game.
"They have let our client down and allowed the abuse to continue. It has cut short his career.
Mr Wilkinson's American lawyer Mika Hilaire said racism was rearing its ugly head across the globe.
Enough is enough. The time is now for the AFL to put its stance against anti-vilification to action," Ms Hilaire said.