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|Ex-player Joel Wilkinson has accused the Australian Football League of racism and said he plans to lodge a claim with the Australian Human Rights Commission. Wilkinson Solomon Thomas Jersey , who was born in Sydney and is of Nigerian descent, played 26 matches in the top-flight national league for the Gold Coast Suns from 2011 to 2013.
"I'm here because I won't be silenced anymore and what has happened has been a continuous breach of human rights," Wilkinson said while reading from a statement on Thursday. "I have suffered extreme racism during my time in the AFL and post my career."
Wilkinson, who had unsuccessful tryouts at cornerback with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants, said he was racially abused by an opposing player during his first AFL game for Gold Coast in 2011.
The following year, he said was racially abused by a supporter of the Collingwood club during a match in Melbourne.
He didn't get another contract after leaving the Suns after the 2013 season, although he did feature in a "Making A Stand" video produced by the AFL's media department in 2014 where he discussed the devastating impact racism had on his career. The video was part of the AFL's 2014 club education program, which the league said was designed "to promote safe, welcoming and inclusive environments for everyone involved in football."
Other players, including Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes, who has Aboriginal heritage and has won an Australian of the Year honor for his work against racism, have been the target of a racist slurs while playing in the top level of the league.
Wilkinson's lawyer Will Barsby said two other former players had made contact following Wilkinson's recent accusations against the league Jake Ryan Jersey , but didn't identify the players and said it was unclear whether the two also wanted to take legal action.
Barsby said Wilkinson lost his place at the Suns because he became too much trouble.
"He was labelled as 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."
The AFL issued a statement saying it respected "a person's right to pursue claims through the legal system", while noting it was sorry Wilkinson had been racially abused during his time as a footballer.
"We will continue to work with Joel to resolve this matter," the AFL statement said.
Australian rules was developed in the late 1850s and has similarities to Ireland's Gaelic football, but uses an oval-shaped ball and teams comprising 18 players score points by kicking the ball between four upright posts at each end of the field.
The Victorian Football League was formed in 1896 and eventually became the Australian Football League when the competition expanded across the country. It remains the only professional Australians Rules league in the world.
Wilkinson had a background in track and field before taking up Aussie rules later in high school. He was a member of the Suns squad when the club first joined the AFL in 2011.
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons visited the Coliseum late last season on their path to the Super Bowl, and they easily racked up a blowout victory over the woebegone Los Angeles Rams. When they return on Saturday night for their NFC wild-card playoff opener, they might hardly recognize the guys in the horned helmets on the other sideline.
That 42-14 loss to the Falcons was a catalyst in the Rams’ transformation from LA laughingstocks into NFC West champions, because coach Jeff Fisher was fired the next day. One month later, Sean McVay was hired to lead the most incredible one-year turnaround in recent NFL history.
”People are excited, and that was our goal when we came back here,” McVay said. ”We wanted to be able to provide a good football product that our fans can be proud of Charles Sims Jersey , and they want to come out and support.”
Led by the 31-year-old McVay, who grew up near Atlanta, and a roster of playmakers including Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald, the Rams (11-5) are in the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. The NFC’s third seed drew a tough matchup with 2016 league MVP Ryan and the Falcons (10-6), who appear capable of making another conference run.
But the Rams expect to feed off the excitement of a city hosting its first playoff game since the LA Raiders’ last postseason trip 24 years ago.
”It’s definitely a cool thing,” Goff said. ”After football has been gone from here for so long, and we come back in Year 2 and are able to bring a playoff game to the Coliseum, that’s very cool.”
Goff, the second-year pro coming off a transformative 3,804-yard season , is eager to face off with Ryan Brian Poole Jersey , who is in the playoffs for the sixth time in 10 years. Both teams have a wealth of offensive playmakers, from Rams MVP candidate Gurley to star Falcons receiver Julio Jones.
The Falcons are back for their first postseason game since that memorable Super Bowl collapse against New England. That loss could have broken weaker teams, but coach Dan Quinn kept this bunch together – and now they’re the only group in the six-team NFC field that also made the playoffs last season.
”I love the resiliency and the toughness of this team,” Quinn said. ”When you’ve been through some of the fire together and you come out the other side stronger as a brotherhood, we’re certainly improved.”
Here are more things to watch when the Rams host their first playoff game in Southern California since January 1986:
BIG NUMBERS: Although both defenses are statistically solid, this game could turn into a shootout. The Falcons led the NFL in scoring last season, but the Rams took over the top spot this year in McVay’s worst-to-first revitalization of the LA offense. Ryan and Jones have the skills to pick at the Rams’ secondary if Donald can’t be disruptive, while Goff and the versatile Gurley are eager to make their first mark on postseason football.
NEW GUYS: While the Falcons know everything about playoff pressure, the Rams seriously lack experience: Just six of their players have been in postseason games – including star left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who went 0-6 in Cincinnati. McVay also is the youngest head coach in a playoff game in NFL history. ”That’s really not an excuse for us,” said Whitworth, who cited the Rams’ series of games against playoff-bound teams down the regular-season stretch as good experience under pressure. ”I think we just need to go out there and execute.”
CONNECTIONS: The teams’ coaching staffs have multiple ties and similarities. Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur was Ryan’s quarterbacks coach last year George Kittle Jersey , although LaFleur claimed he doesn’t have much insight to offer on the star passer or the Falcons’ offense. That offense is run by Steve Sarkisian, who knows the Coliseum extremely well: He coached at USC as an assistant and a head coach until getting fired midway through the 2015 season. Rams GM Les Snead and assistant Brian Xanders are products of the Falcons’ front office, too.
TIME OFF: The Rams didn’t earn a first-round bye, but McVay essentially took one anyway by resting his biggest playmakers for last week’s regular-season finale. The decision likely cost Gurley the NFL rushing title, but should pay off with rested skill-position players. In the ultracompetitive NFC South, the Falcons had to grind into the final week to secure a wild-card spot with a 22-10 win over Carolina.
FOOT QUESTION: The Rams’ three top special-teams talents all earned Pro Bowl recognition, but kicker Greg Zuerlein is out for the season with a back injury. Zuerlein’s reliability was an enormous asset, and Los Angeles’ new kicker is Sam Ficken, who was working at a brokerage firm in Connecticut recently. If the game comes down to a kick, the pressure will be big.
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