AFL great and Indigenous trailblazer Eddie Betts admitted he is saddened but not surprised by racism allegations against Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett from club legend Cyril Rioli.

Rioli, along with wife Shannyn, spoke publicly to The Age about his fractured relationship with his former club, with several alleged incidents of racism paving the way for him to retire at age 28 in 2018.

Reacting to the Riolis’ interview on Sunday, Betts once again took a strong stand against racism in all forms.

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St Kilda press conference | 08:20

“I wasn’t surprised to be honest. To lose the most exciting Indigenous player in the game to racism is really sad, if that’s true,” he told Fox Footy.

“We have fought for 20 years to get Indigenous welfare officers to every club to make it safe to come into the game and we only just achieved it this year.

“The AFL is (moving) with the right steps but we have still got a long way to go and whenever racism comes up I am happy to stand up and talk about it because I am here to stamp it out.”

Rioli has said that he has no intentions of breaking bread with Hawthorn while Kennett remains president.

‘Hawks for Change’, a prominent Hawthorn supporter group, has called for Kennett’s immediate resignation over Rioli’s comments.

Hawthorn coach and Rioli’s former captain Sam Mitchell said after Sunday’s loss to Carlton he had reached out to Rioli in December in a bid to make peace.

Hawthorn Hawks press conference | 09:34

“It certainly saddens me,” he said.

“I have reached out to him over the last few months, trying to get him to reconnect back with the club and to show him some of the things we are doing now to try and improve in this area.

“I think I am like every other Hawthorn person who thinks back to the Cyril that we all loved, whenever you think of Cyril not being happy that is going to make anyone sad and disappointed and I’m no different.

“Hopefully we can welcome him back into the fold at some stage but at the moment you have got to respect his wishes that he is not willing to do that just yet.”

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Former Hawthorn assistant coach and current St Kilda boss Brett Ratten was another left concerned by the treatment of the Riolis.

“It’s not great. Cyril is a terrific person, an amazing footballer but he’s a great person. To read that, it’s not great,” he said after Sunday’s win over Richmond.

“It shows we’ve still got a fair bit of work to do in society with our comments and how we go about things and really understanding First Nations culture.”

Mitchell offered no comment when asked if Kennett should resign.

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