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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Retired Aboriginal footballer Adam Goodes, who quit the Australian Football League (AFL) in acrimony in 2015, has declined induction into the sport's Hall of Fame, the league said on Tuesday.
Goodes played a team record 372 games for the Sydney Swans in the Australian Rules top flight and was named Australian of the Year in 2014 for his community work but he was booed by stadium crowds throughout his final AFL season in one of the country's darkest sporting sagas.
AFL Commission Chairman Richard Goyder said 41-year-old Goodes had told him earlier this year he would decline to accept induction into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
"Adam remains a great champion and leader of our game who has given more to our sport than he received in return," Goyder said in an AFL statement.
"The treatment of Adam in his final years at AFL level drove him from football. The AFL and our game did not do enough to stand with him at the time, and call it out."
The Hall of Fame's induction event was scheduled for June 22 but postponed due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne.
Goyder said the decision was not disclosed earlier because Goodes did not want to detract from the 2021 inductees.
Goodes won two championships with the Swans and two Brownlow Medals as the league's "fairest and best" player in 2003 and 2006.
He used his Australian of the Year title to push for Indigenous Australians' rights but his strong views upset conservatives, while right-wing pundits branded him divisive.
The vitriol spilled over stadium fences in his final season, with crowds booing his every touch of the ball.
It took the league almost four years before offering a formal apology to Goodes for failing to do enough to call out the "racism" of the booing crowds.
Since retiring, Goodes has remained distant from the AFL.
Goyder said the AFL's apology in 2019 was "too late" but apologised again on behalf of the league to Goodes.
"Failure to call out racism and not standing up for Adam let down all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, past and present," he said.
"We hope that there will be a time in the future when Adam will want to be connected to the game again. This is a decision for Adam and Adam only and we understand and respect his choice."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)