ABC News

On February 28, 2002 ABC News did a small piece on Aussie Rules - check out the video footage here.

And our response to the report...

March 1, 2002

Dear Mr. Lee:

Imagine my surprise when a friend of mine called me last night and said hey, we were just on ABC News. I assumed he was talking about Australian football, but beyond that I had not a clue. Later on, he forwarded me a web link with the piece ABC News aired on footy.

At this point, I should introduce myself. My name is Jon Lenicheck, and I am the President of the United States Australian Football League (USAFL). I was thrilled to see that ABC News had interest in the game I play and represent and opened the web link with terrific expectations.

After having viewed it several times, my expectations have faded. While you have certainly captured what, I think, many Americans see in Australian football, I fear your piece simply served to reinforce the inaccurate perceptions Americans have about footy namely, that a bunch of guys with funny accents and short tempers play this weird game where you beat the other guy up. And you dont wear pads. The only thing missing was Paul Hogan quaffing a Fosters oilcan. Unfortunately, I feel that your piece did not begin to capture this game.

First of all, at one point in your piece, AFL player John Barnes notes he wishes Americans would take it (footy) on. The fact is, we have. The USAFL has almost 1,000 members, most of whom are American. We have over thirty member clubs around the US. In 2001, we held our 4th Annual National Tournament, with the San Diego Lions winning the First Division title, and the New York Magpies taking the Second Division. And, for the record, I was born in Milwaukeeand Ive never even been to Australia. While footy is as much Australian as baseball is American, it has made it to the US. I am sorry you did not take the time to check that before airing this piece.

Second, and more importantly, it is misleading to spend so much time focusing on the fact that footy is a contact sport in which the players do not wear pads. Most of your footage showed footy players colliding at high speed, grappling with each other, or even throwing punches at each other. I would suggest that a non-American could do a very similar piece on American football. Or hockey. Or even basketball. In each case, the game itself would be lost by the focus on violence. Footy is no different.

Footy is a graceful game which demands terrific physical exertion from those who play it. Yes, we do not wear pads, and we do get tackled. However, if that is all a footy player did tackle hard they would not spend much time on the field. You also must be able to kick accurately, with both feet, on the run. You must be able to dribble the ball off the ground and have it bounce back up to you. You must be able to pass the ball with each hand. And you have to do all of it for 80 minutes on a ground that is far larger than an American football field. There is much more to our game than hard tackles, and I am sorry ABC News missed that.

I do appreciate you taking the time to put together a piece on footy. It is a wonderful game that, I hope, more Americans will try out. I just wish it had been a more balanced piece that showed the whole game, not just the clichd portion.

If, in the future, you should wish to do any sort of follow up on Australian footy, I encourage you to contact me through either the USAFL office at (240) 453-0915, or through my e-mail,

I appreciate your taking the time to read this letter.


Jonathan A. Lenicheck


United States Australian Football League

And their response to our response...

June 18, 2002

Dear Mr. Lenicheck,

I'm sorry to be so long in answering your letter of March 1st. For some reason it took awhile to work its way through the company mail system to me in London. And by that time I was in Latin America on a long assignment.

I appreciate you taking the time to write to me, and the thoughtful way in which you have expressed your views on Footy. It is true that we used some old footage. If I had used only current tape, the story might have been more to your liking in terms of how you see the game. But it would have not made much of an impact on an audience which knows little about this very interesting sport. We worked hard to find a balance between hold the attention of the audience, and giving as much background and information as possible. I hope that the piece raised the interest of a lot of folks who were new to Footy. Anyone who become more intimately acquainted with the sport will probably make their own judgement as to the finer points that you rightly point out. I'm sorry you were disappointed, but I very much appreciate you taking the trouble to express them.

Viewer feedback is always welcome, no matter what.


Mike Lee


ABC News

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