I don’t want to play: new song highlights racism in AFL

Artists James Alberts aka ‘Jimblah’ and Marlon Moltop address racism in the AFL with “Lean on Me”, a song of resilience.

AFL player turned singer/songwriter Marlon Moltop recently in a collaborative effort with fellow artist Jimblah brought to life ‘Lean on Me’.  An anti-racism anthem challenging the ongoing issue of racism that our communities have to experience when it comes to the sporting arena.  

In his recent interview with IndigenousX Marlon was asked what inspired him and Jimblah to write “Lean on Me”, Moltop told IndigenousX that “It was off the racial vilification in the game of AFL. The Tex Walker incident initiated a bit of conversation and stance in the South Australian Football league which I play in. From there I spoke at length with Jimblah from BLKMPIRE. I think from our point of view it seems like the message is just not getting across. So, myself and Jimblah we tried to use another medium to get our messages heard and that was through music”.

Moltop was asked what compelled him to address the issue of racism in his collaboration with Jimblah and stated that “I felt I had a responsibility as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander footballer in our competition to shine a light on how do we properly unpack the Tex Walker video from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander point of view. A lot of the noise I was hearing was from non-Aboriginal people and I felt like Aboriginal voice was being lost amongst all that noise. For me First Nations voices in incidences of racism should be above the noise”.

The song addresses the issue of racism through powerful lyrics an example being “I don’t want to play when this weight on my shoulders is yours to take but still, they want to crucify me and pour dirt on my name” which speaks volumes about how our mob who play AFL are often forced to deal with the issue of racism on their own.

Moltop is not the first Indigenous AFL player to openly address racism in the game and he certainly will not be the last.

In 1993, St. Kilda great Nicky Winmar made a public stance against racism by raising his jersey and pointing at his skin to mouth “I AM BLACK and I AM PROUD” after being racially abused.

We then witnessed ex Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes being called an “Ape” by a 13-year-old girl in the stands and him identifying the girl and having her escorted off the ground by security.

Recent Carlton retiree Eddie Betts also experienced constant racial vilification during his AFL career both on and off the field. In one incident with a user commenting “Money see Monkey do” on an instagram post.

More recently, there was the racially motivated incident between Taylor Walker and Robbie Young in July which sparked the lyrics’ behind “Lean on Me”. Moltop could have easily held a press conference to speak about this incident and the ongoing effects of racism but instead chose to turn to music.  

His reasoning being “We’ve heard countless number of statements from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal footballers and I feel like it might be having an impact but I feel like we probably need to go through another medium. I feel like music is a universal sound, it’s the universal connection piece. I think to be able to make a statement through our song is hopefully going to be pretty impactful”.

Moltop was asked about how tired the Indigenous AFL community are of continuously having to speak about racism in the game. In response Moltop said that “We sound like a broken record, and I think the alarming thing is that we will continue to do it and take on that responsibility. The alarming thing is that I feel like we’re kind of getting used to it now. We don’t want to be getting used to it, we want to be getting rid of it”.

“Lean on Me” is not just another song, it is our peoples long-standing experiences of racism which are deeply rooted into our sporting arenas in Australia. We constantly hear about the experiences of our people on and off the field, and the effect this has on mob. This song gives a voice to those experiences and the opportunity to hear the truth behind them. It is a creative stance against racial vilification in the game of AFL. It is a reflection of how we as First Peoples are constantly targeted and vilified because of who we are. The song’s key takeaway is that our  mob who play football are often forced to bear the burden of addressing the issue of racism alone, and the song highlights how it should not be this way.

Moltop summed the song up as “this is not just a song for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, this is a song for the nation. This song was written to bring people together, to show support and to wrap our arms around our First Nation’s People and those arms include non-first nations people as well”. You can listen to “Lean on Me” on YouTube here.  

Be sure to subscribe to Jimblah, Marlon Music and BLKMPIRE’s on Spotify and YouTube and share it. These are some very talented brothers who have a message they want to share with you, so make sure you take the time to listen to it.

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