The meme, recently posted on the “AFL Memes” page which has almost 200,000 likes, showed an image of the 400-pound silverback Harambe, which was shot dead after a child fell into its enclosure in Ohio, along with former AFL star Adam Goodes’ name and other comments.
The meme also caused an uproar on social media. Some Twitter users questioned why Facebook had not removed the post earlier, saying it was “hate speech” and violated its policies.
Goodes retired from the domestic Aussie Rules league last year, months after being subjected to repeated booing from fans during games in scenes many described as racially motivated.
The abuse appeared to have stemmed from Goodes taking exception to being called an “ape” by a young spectator at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2013.
“We thought that it was an appalling post and that it needed to be removed, and we’re pleased it was removed,” AFL spokesman Patrick Keane told AFP about the meme, adding that the sport’s governing body asked for it to be taken down on Wednesday.
In a post that attracted 1,000 likes, one Facebook user wrote on the “AFL Memes” page: “That is the most atrocious thing I’ve seen on Facebook and I’ve seen a lot of crap on Facebook.
“You should be utterly ashamed of posting this. I can’t believe you did,” the post quoted by Melbourne’s Herald Sun said.
Australia’s sporting codes have supported an anti-racism campaign, “Racism. It Stops with Me”, in recent years, with major clubs and prominent sportsmen signing up to promote better awareness of how to counter such issues.
Earlier this week, a man was charged after allegedly sending a racist and expletive-laden social media message to the first Aboriginal woman elected to Australia’s parliament, Senator Nova Peris.
Aborigines, the most disadvantaged Australians, are believed to have numbered around one million at the time of British settlement.
There are now just 670,000 out of a total Australian population of 23 million, and they suffer disproportionate levels of disease, imprisonment and social problems as well as significantly lower education, employment and life expectancy.