Elise Read says she didn’t even think about the voice to parliament referendum, or yes rallies happening around the country, when she got dressed to head to an AFLW match on Sunday.
But when she arrived at the Brisbane Lions’ new home ground – in her “history is calling” T-shirt – she was taken out of the queue at the gate. A security guard told her it was banned because it was too political.
She wasn’t allowed to cover it with a hoodie, or turn it inside out.
“We’ve driven 40 minutes, I’ve bought a ticket – am I really being turned away?” she recalls asking.
“It feels really ridiculous.”
Read was allowed to enter the ground after changing her shirt.
But the treatment she – and at least one other fan, also turned away – received left her in tears, and prompted the AFL and club to apologise on Monday.
AFL ticketing rules say patrons must not “wear or otherwise display commercial, political, religious or offensive signage or logos of any kind”.
The chief executive of the AFL, Gillon McLachlan, said the clause banning political statements on clothing at games does not apply to shirts like the one singled out on Sunday.
On Monday, he said the incident “should not have happened. I apologise to the AFLW supporter.”
“People who are expressing their own views coming to games in a T-shirt, it’s absolutely their right to do that.”
Read said the stance was particularly absurd given the game’s proud Indigenous history.
“Dakota Davidson is our favourite player, she’s the leading goal scorer for the Lions, an Indigenous player,” she said.
“Driving home that was the thought I had. I was like, what if I had worn this shirt to show my support for the Courtney Hodders and the Dakota Davidsons? What if that was 100% my goal?”
The history is calling shirt is produced by the Uluru Dialogue for supporters of the voice campaign. It was worn by federal minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, at the yes rally in Melbourne on Sunday.
Another Lions fan in the same shirt, Michelle, who asked that her surname not be used, said she was also “completely shocked” to be told she was not allowed in to the ground.
She’s a foundation member, attending almost every home game the club has played.
“I was just confused, shocked, angry,” she said.
“I’ve travelled interstate to go and watch them play. I’m a big, massive fan and I love the inclusive environment.”
Michelle laid the blame at a single security guard who she said issued the edict and seemed to be directing subordinates.
“The more and more I thought about it, the more I was just like, I feel like this is a particular security guard with their own agenda who is bending some kind of generic guidelines to their own thing.”
She was helped by another patron, who offered her a spare shirt while she was walking back to the train station.
They later told her they had seen security order another woman to remove yes earrings.
The Brisbane Lions said an overzealous contracted security guard had refused patrons entry to the Brighton Homes Arena in Springfield.
“We’re aware of the incident and have contacted the patron[s] to apologise,” a spokesperson said.
The Lions have recently switched home grounds from Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast.
About 2,582 attended the game on Sunday afternoon to watch the Brisbane Lions crush the Sydney Swans by 55 points.
The Brisbane Lions have previously expressed support for a yes vote in the voice to parliament referendum.
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