An Australian football club was forced to apologize after at least two of its team members dressed as tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams in blackface, in what was deemed “disgusting” and “repulsive racism.”
Australian Penguin Football Club members Mitch Stanley and Matt Chamberlain were pictured wearing white tennis skirts, black wigs and black body paint, and holding tennis rackets.
A member of the Tasmania-based team posted the photo on Facebook, sparking outrage, before the post was deleted. A third member of the team was also dressed in blackface, posing as Aliir Aliir, a Sydney Swans football player.
Speaking with Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), an Australian Football League spokesperson said individual football clubs are responsible for participating in Mad Day celebrations, marking the end of the season.
The players’ costumes were widely condemned on social media.
“Just when you thought we could relax because Australia at least hasn’t had a blackface situation for a while… along comes Tasmania to save the day,” Michelle Hunder tweeted.
“@PenguinTwoBlues do you have a comment about the players in your team wearing ‘black-face’..? Disgusting. They should be stood down immediately and permanently. Unless you support racists?” tweeted another. “Let this team know what you think about the latest display of repulsive racism. #blackface”
The Penguin Football Club apologized for its players’ actions, calling it “unacceptable in this day and age.”
“It was not their intention to upset anyone and all they meant to do was dress as one of their sporting idols. Their actions were never intended to be racist in any way,” the club said in a statement. “Those concerned have been reprimanded and will be given support to make sure they understand that their behaviour was racist and hurtful and that it will not happen again.”
Earlier this month an Australian newspaper came under fire for an editorial cartoon — also called “racist” — of Serena Williams following the U.S. Open.
The cartoon showed the 23-time Grand Slam winner with exaggerated facial features, wearing a tutu while jumping on a broken tennis racket. A pacifier is pictured on the tennis court.
The cartoon was widely condemned on social media by sports figures and celebrities.