Basketball ACT admits need for further cultural training after 12-year-old players report racism during game

Basketball ACT acknowledges the need for further cultural training and education after allegations 12-year-old girls were called a racist name at a junior basketball game in Canberra.

The Winnunga Warriors, a local Indigenous club, were playing in an under-14s competition on Saturday when members of the other team allegedly used racially offensive language against them.

Winnunga Warriors founder, president and 2018 ACT Australian of the Year Dion Devow tweeted on Sunday that the derogatory word had “broken” his heart.

“Racism never seems to end!” he tweeted.

“Players on my daughter’s basketball team were called Coons yesterday on their first game back. Have we not learnt anything of late?”

On Thursday, the chief executive officer of Basketball ACT, David Simpson, spoke publicly about the allegations.

“For us, this incident has highlighted … a need for further training and education, even if it is just to reinforce cultural awareness and values,” Mr Simpson said.

“But our response to this needs to be quite considered.


Parents of the Winnunga Warriors players called for cultural awareness training in the competition.

Mr Simpson said Basketball ACT had “in the past held Indigenous awareness and cultural awareness seminars”, but conceded there had not been any recent education, and none during his tenure as chief executive.

He said he had reached out to the Winnunga Warriors Basketball Club to apologise for their distress over the incident.

An investigation has been ongoing, but all parties have now spoken to Basketball ACT officials.

“There are a lot of sensitivities,” Mr Simpson said.

“Particularly around the age [and] maturity of the players, and particularly … to ensure the process is appropriate for people of that age.”

Suited sports administrator beside court arena
Basketball ACT CEO David Simpson says the organisation engages with the Indigenous community “quite a bit”, but more cultural awareness training is needed.(ABC News: Tahlia Roy)

He said the local basketball competition was “very multicultural” and Basketball ACT engaged with the Indigenous community “quite a bit”.

“They’re a very solid part of our own community,” he said.

“It’s also worth noting that Basketball Australia is … developing a Reconciliation Action Plan … which Basketball ACT will be a part of.

“That will partly inform our approach going forward as well.”

Similar incidents last year were not dealt with: parent

Sports-capped parent and indigenous man reports arena abuse against his son
Canberra father and Ngunnawal man Richie Allan told the ABC last year that his son was called a “dirty abo” and a “petrol sniffer” on the court.(ABC News: Tahlia Roy)

Ngunnawal man and father of four Richie Allan said reading about the Warriors’ experience felt like he was experiencing “déjà vu”.

“Again, it’s racism. You know, it’s derogatory words. Basketball is supposed to be a safe environment,” he said.

Mr Allan has criticised Basketball ACT’s approach to racism ever since he complained to the organisation when his son was allegedly racially abused last year.

“It affected him not only mentally, but physically,” Mr Allan said.

“It’s draining. Week after week, it just kept happening.

“But you have to … at some time say, ‘You know what, it’s probably better mentally and physically for me to just walk away.'”

Richard Allan and other teammates pose for a photo.
Richie Allan’s son, Richard (back left), says he copped racism from opposing players several times.(Supplied: Richard Allan)

The Allan family had felt dismissed after Basketball ACT “came to their conclusion that nothing happened,” Mr Allan said.

He was relieved the issue of addressing racism in local sport was again on the agenda, saying it put Basketball ACT “back in the spotlight”.

“We tried to educate. We tried to help and support, but when you don’t want help and support, how are you going to move forward?” he said.

Mr Simpson was not CEO of Basketball ACT when Mr Allan spoke out in 2019, but he said he was aware of the allegation.

“I’m aware there was a complaint prior … but I’m not in a position to speak about that,” Mr Simpson said.

‘Bullying on the grounds of race requires a very specific response’

A young girl in active wear on a basketball court.
Winnunga Warriors Basketball Club player Sienna Devow, 12, said the comments wouldn’t stop her from playing a game she loved.(ABC News: Tahlia Roy)

ACT Discrimination Commissioner Karen Toohey said Basketball ACT needed to engage with the Aboriginal community to help address the issue “so that they don’t try and do it through a policy or something on their website”.

The Black Lives Matter movement and global COVID-19 pandemic had thrust discussions around race into the public conscience, she said, exposing divisive language and racism to youth through mainstream media and online.

“We do protect people from vilification on the grounds of race in the ACT, but unfortunately we have seen an increase in the number of those reports and formal complaints over the last six months,” Ms Toohey said.

She said Basketball ACT also needed to reinforce to players and parents that racist behaviour was illegal.

“Bullying on the grounds of race requires a very specific response,” she said. “It’s not something where you can say, ‘Please don’t do it.'”

Ms Toohey said she was disappointed to hear the alleged language was spoken at a sporting competition for young Indigenous girls.

“Sport is one of the most meaningful engagements kids have [to socialise and be] part of a team and the last thing we want is for them to be racially vilified,” she said.

A Canberra Capital comes out in support of girls

The Winnunga Warriors have received an outpouring of support since the weekend, including a heart-felt video message from the Canberra Capitals’ Marianna Tolo.

“I just want to say I read about your story and I am so sorry you have experienced some racism in your latest game,” Tolo said in the video.

Tolo also extended an invitation to the Winnunga Warriors’ juniors urging them to attend the Capitals’ next home game.

The young squad enthusiastically accepted the invitation from their hero.

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Basketball ACT investigating alleged racist slur made to 12-year-old girls during Canberra game

Girls on an Indigenous basketball team say they were left feeling “hurt and demoralised” after 12-year-olds on the opposing side allegedly uttered a racist slur during their game.

The Winnunga Warriors, an Indigenous club based in Canberra, were playing in an under-14s basketball competition on Sunday, when children on the other team allegedly referred to some of the girls using an offensive term.

Winnunga Warriors president and 2018 ACT Australian of the Year Dion Devow tweeted that the phrase used against the girls had “broken his heart”.

“Racism never seems to end! Players on my daughter’s basketball team were called Coons yesterday on their first game back. Have we not learnt anything of late?”

Mr Devow said the incident had rattled the girls as it was entirely at odds with the culture of their club.

“Winnunga Warriors is all about embracing, celebrating and promoting reconciliation using basketball as a vehicle to do that,” Mr Devow said.


The father said it was particularly awful that the hateful language came from other 12-year-olds.

“They are children and it is just sad that these kids are picking up these cues and this type of behaviour and language and then they’re mimicking that and using that,” he said.

“This isn’t on and we will address it every time it comes up, and hopefully, it will lessen in time.

“Racism will not be tolerated.”

‘We don’t know if it will happen again’

Jane Diedricks said she was watching her daughter Catherine from the sidelines on the weekend when she observed the commotion.

“The girls came off looking a bit stunned and surprised, and it’s happened on other occasions as well, where they’ve come off the court and said, ‘Look some really weird words were said to us Mum and we don’t understand what some of them mean’,” Ms Diedricks said.  

Parents of young sports people outside a basketball court.
Winnunga Warriors president Dion Devow and Jane Diedricks have reported the incident to Basketball ACT.(ABC News: Tahlia Roy)

Ms Diedricks said her daughter told her that hearing the racist insults made her feel “uncomfortable and really overwhelmed”.

“It definitely hurt the players and it also hurt me,” she said.

Catherine’s teammate Sienna said it had left the Warriors anxious about returning to the court in future.

“I think that everyone might be a little nervous to play the next games because we don’t know if it will happen again,” she said.

Basketball ACT ‘working closely’ with the teams

Two young girls in active wear on sports court.
Sienna Devow and Catherine Diedricks, both 12, say the incident won’t stop them from playing the game they love.(ABC News: Tahlia Roy)

Mr Devow and Ms Diedricks have complained to Basketball ACT. 

“We would like an apology [from the opposition team] to our players and some ramifications that show the association [Basketball ACT] is serious about putting a stop to this type of racism,” Mr Devow said.  

In a statement, Basketball ACT chief executive officer David Simpson said he was investigating the complaint.

“Basketball ACT has been in close contact with both of the clubs involved and we will continue to work closely with them as we work through the investigation process,” Mr Simpson said.

But both Mr Devow and Ms Diedricks said despite the incident, the girls on the team loved the game and had a support network in each other. 

“It’s just super fun,” Catherine said, while laughing with Sienna.

“My team, they’re pretty easy going and I always have a good laugh with them. Even if you fall down straight on your face, you always laugh about it.”

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Premier League striker Wilfried Zaha receives online racist abuse, police arrest a 12-year-old boy

A 12-calendar year-previous boy was arrested by law enforcement following Crystal Palace participant Wilfried Zaha highlighted racist abuse he gained in advance of Sunday’s Leading League match at Aston Villa.

The racist messages and visuals referenced the Ivory Coast global being black and confirmed the Ku Klux Klan.

They ended up despatched on Instagram from a user who referenced central England-centered club Villa in their name.

“Woke up to this now,” Zaha posted on Twitter alongside screenshots.


“We have been alerted to a series of racist messages despatched to a footballer right now and just after wanting into them and conducting checks, we have arrested a boy,” West Midlands Police mentioned on Twitter.

“The 12-year-aged from Solihull has been taken into custody.

Prior to kick off at Villa Park, Zaha — like all gamers in new months — took a knee as section of the Black Lives Make any difference marketing campaign.

“He is extremely not happy and he is entitled to be,” Palace manager Roy Hodgson stated soon after the 2- reduction.

Wilfried Zaha joined an motion to aid Black Life Matters just before his team’s video game against Aston Villa.(AP: Tim Keeton, Pool photograph)

“These cowardly, despicable acts from individuals … presumably striving to get some kind of gain for the team they help, maybe trying to put some uncertainties into the head of one of the opposition team’s star players.

The Leading League has launched a reporting program to enable gamers to report abuse that can be adopted up by authorities.

“This conduct is totally unacceptable and the Leading League stands alongside Wilfried Zaha in opposing this, and discrimination in any form,” the league mentioned in a assertion.

“We will carry on to help gamers, professionals, coaches and their relatives users who obtain significant discriminatory on line abuse.”

An anti-racism message is displayed on the big screen at the ground during a Premier League match.
The Premier League explained the on-line abuse been given by Wilfried Zaha as “completely unacceptable”.(Reuters/Motion Visuals: Andrew Boyers, file photo)

Soccer pundits and former gamers joined in the condemnation of the abuse.

Former Arsenal, Crystal Palace and England striker Ian Wright emphasised the abuse faced by Zaha was not out of the everyday.

“People today like to make these encounters seem like it really is not the norm for black persons. It is really constantly an outlier,” he tweeted.

“‘Not a person of us’. ‘Not a genuine (insert club) fan’. These are serious men and women & daily ordeals!!

“Quicker we settle for it the much better we can deal with it!!! We stand with you Wilf”.

An additional former England footballer, Gary Lineker, explained: “This is abhorrent, and absolutely a criminal offence.”


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