When Lin Jong was approached to support a campaign around how to end racism on social media, he had no hesitation in being involved.
The 27-year-old Western Bulldogs player has been heavily involved in community programs throughout his time in the AFL system, including as an AFL Multicultural Ambassador and GOAL program mentor for the Club’s community foundation.
And when Indigenous media personality Shelley Ware asked Jong to put his name to an open letter to the Attorney-General, not only did he sign, but also encouraged teammates to get involved.
Jong and teammates Jason Johannisen, Tom Liberatore and Buku Khamis were among the initial 100 people to sign the letter – alongside multiple AFL club CEOs and former champions, including Adam Goodes and Gavin Wanganeen.
More than 500 people have now signed on.
“Shelley contacted me on social media, asking if I’d like to be involved,” Jong said.
“It was a pretty straight-forward answer from my end to have my name on the proposal, it was a definite yes from me.
“It was a simple text from me to the other boys – Shelley asked if I might know any other players who would like to be involved.
“I think Buku and JJ have always rallied around it and I know Libba is passionate about things like this. I didn’t need to ask every single player – but I know everyone would have been happy to agree.
“I knew the answer I would get, so it was just a matter of asking people.”
Jong said it was a combination of his own experiences with racism and abuse on social media – combined with the impact he has seen it have on others – that prompted him to put his name to the cause.
As a younger player, he wasn’t as confident voicing his opinion as he now is.
“When the first incident happened to me, I don’t think I quite processed it,” Jong said.
“I was a bit younger and was maybe a bit afraid to make a stand or make a big fuss about it, because I was still sort of finding my feet within myself.
“This time around, it’s more of a powerful stance I’m trying to take. I’m trying to lead by example.
“I’d encourage people to speak up, but I also understand that not everyone might be comfortable with that and putting themselves out there.”
In the AFL industry this year, there have been multiple instances of players and clubs calling out racist comments on social media.
“People are getting fed up with it,” Jong said.
“With the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s gained so much traction around the world. People are starting to open their eyes a bit more.
“It might sometimes be a bit uncomfortable sometimes to talk about, but it’s becoming more normal now to call it out.”
Jong encouraged people to have a think before posting comments on social media about the impact they could have on others.
“People always say to ignore things like that, but it’s hard to ignore,” he said.
“If people have something bad to say about others, just have a think about the effect it might have on them.
“It might not seem like it will do much, but you could say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time, when they’re in a vulnerable position, and you just never know what kind of effect that can have.”