With Adam Goodes announcing his new role at David Jones, TBS Editor Mathew Mackie wonders if his first move beyond football is an astute one.
Adam Goodes doesn’t owe us anything. But to many Australians, he always will. Goodes speaks for those who can’t.
Like all warriors of social change, and to those who surrender themselves onto a cause, Adam Goodes has become the personification of the struggle he fights. In a professional lifetime spent navigating the unrelenting pressing hell of having his behaviour scrutinised, whether sought or unsought, his every comment mined for subtextual value, soundbites artificially clipped to suit bias; Goodes has been tarred with a wide brush, be it ‘Flog’ ‘Icon’ or ‘Hero’ combined with the thousandfold, unprintable barbed labels, all of which he carries.
But carry it he does, along with our invincible, blinding hope, that of long marginalised Australians, past and present, both in silent and vociferous support. A searing beacon of knowing. The knowledge, that things can be better, and one day, equal.
As the Guardian reported, Adam Goodes’ role with David Jones will be advising the development of their RAP (Reconciliation Action Plan), of which Goodes hopes to “… use their voice to inspire positive change for the environment and community more generally, others will stand up and follow”.
The campaign that Goodes (along with Jessica Gomes and Tim Rogers) will be brand ambassador of, as the Guardian states “…is a continuation of the store’s attempt to freshen up the brand and attract 18- to 34-year-old shoppers”, which exposes the bigger issue; while it’ll be a move to promote equality, it is also one on the side of private enterprise. And while David Jones is a large pedestal to spread his message, it is one that, above all, answers to shareholders.
David Jones is an Australian institution, yes, but one could argue there are greater, more pressing areas of Equality that needs Goodes’ mark far more than the languishing fashion giant. The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remains vast, stark gaps in health, education funding and the vicious twisting hydra of domestic violence; of which Goodes has taken a stand against, via his work the White Ribbon program (during his playing days), so why not increase that?
Which is not to say he won’t, nor that I doubt his drive to complete his optimal aims. More than anything, I feel this is an issue of timing.
Goodes, after enduring that tumultuous final season, battling not only the realities that all ageing athletes must face, but also being burnt by the pale light of ignorance, vicious wounds which he wore for all of us, Goodes firmly planted in the nation’s consciousness. Heroes fade, but Narratives live forever, and Goodes final year fits the criteria, but while some will always listen, in the future, some may not.
But, at this moment, he can reach those who won’t listen later.
This is why the David Jones move was an important one, it is symbolic, his first decision post-retirement, the first steps into the world as the new Adam Goodes.
I’m not saying it’s a bad move, the promotion of Equality no matter how small, is endlessly positive, but in light of the larger issues afoot, it seems, not prosaic, but limp. Goodes has always supported the right cause, eloquently said the right things, represented the mirage of idealism we grasp for, once approached, shifts the peak of the next hill.
Perhaps this David Jones decision is just that, the further increasing of his profile, a step in the ladder toward the branch of equality. Or perhaps not. What David Jones receives is clear, tangible results, a PR/Branding dream, whereas what Goodes seeks, may be harder to measure in absolutes.
But absolutes is what Goodes desires, to close the gap between Australians so I’m unsure if his new role at David Jones will offer the change he seeks.
However, the post-football career Goodes is only a month old. The path only started on, winding, the end not clear. Only Adam Goodes is Adam Goodes, he wears the expectation we have of him, and what he places on himself. His earnest responsibility of change, walking his own plane, dragging our doubt, our own misconceptions, through the dank caves of our nation’s past, into the oft-mentioned utopian ideal; firmly etched onto a date we’re yet to know.