The AFL has clarified their stance after an Israeli flag was spotted at Saturday’s game between North Melbourne and West Coast.
Kangaroos rookie Harry Sheezel starred on debut, racking up 34 disposals in North’s five-point win in a battle between two teams who are expected to contend for this year’s wooden spoon.
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The impressive debut saw him become the first debutant to record 30 or more disposals since Michael Barlow recorded 33 in 2010.
Sheezel was the deserved recipient of the Round 1 Rising Star nomination, but his breakout debut has now been marred by a flag controversy.
During the game at Marvel Stadium, at least one Israeli flag was spotted in the crowd in a show of support for Sheezel.
The No. 3 draft pick, the first Jewish player to enter the AFL in more than two decades, was the subject of anti-Semitic abuse on social media after being drafted late last year.
Sheezel said during the game against the Eagles, he noticed North fans brandishing flags and packets of Cheezels in support of him.
“As the game went on I heard the chants and I saw a few flags and Cheezel packets around the ground, which was cool to see,” Sheezel told Fox Footy’s AFL 360.
“It just made me feel so supported and loved and made me feel a part of it, which was great.”
But the presence of an Israeli flag has reportedly upset some AFL fans, including North Melbourne supporters, who believe the league shouldn’t be condoning displays of political, religious or nationalist movements at matches.
On Wednesday the league responded by releasing a statement, stating they had no issue with the flag being flown.
“An AFL match day is a place for everyone, we want fans to celebrate their clubs and players, and if that includes displaying national flags that amplify any of their team’s player heritage then the AFL is fully supportive. We should celebrate our players and the game any chance we get,” the statement read.
“For clarity, the AFL has no issue with the flag and signs supporting North Melbourne’s Harry Sheezel on the weekend. Correspondence sent to a patron that had an issue with the flag being displayed was an incorrect interpretation of our conditions of match day entry policy and we apologise for any confusion.
“The AFL conditions of entry policy in place, that amongst other things, regulates signage, flags and banners brought into our venues that have commercial and/or political messages. The AFL and our venues enforce this policy where appropriate.
“The AFL is proud of our diverse and wide-ranging backgrounds, faiths, and origins of all our players and encourage fans to continue to celebrate it accordingly.”
SEN reports AFL security lead Alistair Meldrum sent an email to one fan conceding the flag should not have been allowed under the stadium’s condition of entry.
“Once identified, it should then have been requested to be seized/confiscated or the patron in possession requested to leave if they refused to surrender the flag,” Meldrum wrote.
“This has been communicated to MSL Venue Management.”
The AFL’s ticket and entry conditions state that patrons must not “wear or otherwise display commercial, political, religious or offensive signage or logos of any kind”.
Dad of supporter slams ‘woke’ AFL
The father of the young fan who displayed the Israeli flag told Neil Mitchell’s 3AW program any AFL edict banning the flag would be “ridiculous”.
He explained he and his son barrack for Carlton but Josh wanted to support Sheezel because he too is Jewish.
“He just wanted to support Harry,” the fan’s father Gary said.
“Josh is very friendly. He checked with police days earlier. He said he’s making up a sign, he’s going to take the sign, would that be OK? The police said it’s not an issue unless you’re doing it to incite.
“If you’re just going to support Harry and you want to hold up a flag for him. He actually had permission, you could call it, from police.
“The blue and white on the Israeli flag is the same as North Melbourne so it blended in. It looked really good.”
Neil Mitchell pointed out the American flag has been spotted at games in support of Collingwood’s Mason Cox.
“The AFL is a joke,” the fan’s father said.
“Can they get any more woke or politically correct. It’s frustrating, it really is.
“With all the anti-Semitism going on, I said him, ‘You don’t have to take the Israeli flag, you could just take the Star of David’. But he also did the sign that said ‘Mazel Tov Harry’. “Where’s it going to end? Are they going to ban signs that say ‘Mazel Tov Harry?
“I mean, it’s getting ridiculous. We’ve got a lot of South Sudanese players playing. Are we going the South Sudanese flag? Are we going to ban the Australian flag?
“The AFL’s a joke, they really are. The AFL just make up the rules are they go along, they really do. What are they taking offence at?
“I’m annoyed but not surprised by anything the AFL does. They can’t get any more woke. Are we going to be wearing T-shirts in four months time supporting the Voice to Parliament? “They just pick and choose. They do what they think is popular. It’s not surprising at all.”