AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has apologised to former Sydney Swans champion Adam Goodes on behalf of the game for not acting sooner to stop the booing directed at him by crowds in 2015.
In the AFL Annual Report released on Thursday, McLachlan wrote that he believed some people were hostile to the veteran because he spoke up about the issues confronting indigenous people.
Goodes was booed incessantly through the year and, after attempts to ignore it, eventually decided to take a break from the game.
He did not play against Adelaide in round 18 but returned a week later in round 19 against Geelong following a week of calls for supporters to stop booing the dual Brownlow medallist.
McLachlan admitted the League should have acted earlier to put an end to the booing.
"Adam stood up to represent indigenous people and he took a stand on racism, and for this, I believe he was subject to hostility from some in our crowds," McLachlan wrote.
"As a game, we should have acted sooner and I am sorry we acted too slowly."
McLachlan said he respected Goodes' decision to not attend the MCG on Grand Final day for the parade of champions and to take time away from the game.
He said the level of booing Goodes was subjected to was something no player should ever face.
McLachlan said the debate about whether or not the booing was racist only increased the pressure on Goodes, but he was proud at the way the game supported the then 35-year-old when the issue came to a head.
"The national conversation about racism taught me how important our role is to partner with all players to fight racism," McLachlan wrote.
"Adam has led with courage and humility and I look forward to the day our game can properly celebrate the retirement of this great champion."
Goodes played 372 games and kicked 464 goals before retiring at the end of 2015.
He played in two premierships with the Sydney Swans, won two Brownlow Medals, three club best and fairest awards and captained Australia in the International Rules Series in 2010.