Nicky Winmar's Defiant Stand: The Moment That Ignited the Fight Against Racism in AFL

Nicky Winmar's Defiant Stand: The Moment That Ignited the Fight Against Racism in AFL

Picture this: it's April 17, 1993, and the St Kilda Saints are going head-to-head with the Collingwood Magpies at Victoria Park. The game is heated, and the crowd is getting rowdy, with some spectators shouting racist remarks. But amidst all the chaos, something incredible happens. Nicky Winmar, a proud Noongar man, decides he's had enough of the racial abuse being hurled his way. So, as the final siren sounds, he turns to the crowd, lifts his jersey, and points to his skin, declaring, "I'm black and I'm proud to be black."

It's a moment that's been captured in a now-iconic photograph by Wayne Ludbey, and it's one that would go on to change the face of Australian sports forever.

Credit: Wayne Ludbey

The ripple effect of Winmar's act of defiance didn't just make headlines; it started a full-blown movement. The photo was splashed across the front pages of every major newspaper, and the public outcry was impossible to ignore. The AFL knew they had to do something, and fast.

By the end of the year, they'd committed to a code of conduct and introduced 'Rule 30'  in 1995. This rule explicitly prohibited players from engaging in racial abuse and outlined significant fines for clubs that failed to uphold these standards. They even launched an education campaign called "Racism: The Game is Up" to show they meant business.

The Fight Continues 

Despite all these reforms, racism is still a big issue in the AFL. Players like Adam Goodes, Eddie Betts, and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan have all copped their fair share of abuse over the years. Goodes even ended up retiring in 2015 because of how bad it got.

It just goes to show that there's still a lot of work to be done. But players aren't staying silent anymore. When Ugle-Hagan faced racial abuse recently, he channelled his inner Winmar and lifted his jersey, pointing to his skin. It was a powerful reminder that the fight against racism is far from over.

Healing and Reflection 

Fast forward to 2023, and Nicky Winmar is back at Victoria Park for a healing ceremony called Ngarra Jarra Noun. It was a chance for people to come together, reflect on that iconic moment, and promote healing for those who've been affected by racial abuse. 

And Winmar's legacy? It's still inspiring players today. As he says, "I'll never stop fighting racism." It's a sentiment that echoes throughout the AFL and beyond.

A Legacy That Lives On

At the end of the day, Nicky Winmar's stand is a symbol of strength, pride, and the power of taking a stand against injustice. It's why there's now a bronze statue of him outside Optus Stadium in Perth - to make sure that future generations never forget what he did.

As the AFL and its players continue to grapple with the challenges of racial abuse, Winmar's legacy remains a guiding light. His actions didn't just change the game; they started a movement that continues to this day. And that's something worth celebrating.


"Thirty years ago Nicky Winmar took a stand against racism. Young players continue to follow his lead." SBS NITV. 

"30 years on from his iconic moment, Nicky Winmar is helping others to heal from the same wounds he suffered." SBS NITV. 

Image: Wayne Lubney, 1993.

Cover image:
'Nicky Winmar - After Botecelli'  
by Letitia Morris