Richmond and Collingwood players have taken a knee before their AFL clash and worn black t-shirts during the warm-up in a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The gestures were ticked off by both clubs and the AFL as the Victorian rivals relaunched the season on Thursday night at the MCG after a three-month break.
Indigenous stars Shane Edwards, Sydney Stack, Daniel Rioli, Marlion Pickett and Shai Bolton were centre stage, as the Tigers and Magpies took a united stand in a player-led initiative for the worldwide cause against systemic racism.
Umpires, coaches and support staff joined in the player-led initiative.
“Certainly both our clubs are endorsing and supportive of our players doing that,” Magpies chief executive Mark Anderson told ABC radio.
“We strongly support them doing so.”
It is expected the league’s other 16 clubs will display similar shows of unity during the weekend’s remaining eight games.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said “racism needs to be stamped out”.
“It is an important issue for our players, for our clubs and for the AFL,” he told Sunrise.
A number of other AFL clubs, including the Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Melbourne and Brisbane, have already posted photos and messages on social media in support of the worldwide movement.
Bulldogs defender Jason Johannisen, who spent the first eight years of his life in South Africa, declared he was “done doing nothing”.
“All I ask for you to do is simply, with an open heart, just listen and understand what people of colour have been through,” the 2016 Norm Smith medallist wrote on social media.
AFL Players’ Association president Patrick Dangerfield said footballers felt a responsibility for the support not to be “tokenistic”.
“I think it’s being there for them (AFL’s indigenous players), that they’re comfortable with everything that’s happening but also how can we improve it?” the Geelong superstar told reporters.
“How can it be something more than that, that’s ongoing and we facilitate and really drive real change within all Australians?”
Dangerfield said Geelong and Hawthorn were yet to settle on the most-appropriate way to acknowledge the movement during their Friday night match.
Hawks star Chad Wingard has recently been calling out racism in Australia via social media and has expressed frustration with a lack of diversity in the mainstream media.
“We’ve got some really passionate young indigenous players (at Geelong) and we have to make sure we are educating our community better than we currently do,” Dangerfield said.
Black Lives Matters protests took place in the United States after the death in police custody of George Floyd which were followed across the world and last weekend in Australia.
The Tigers-Magpies match was being shown live to American audiences on Fox Sports 1.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first started the practice of kneeling during the US national anthem in 2016 before NFL games.