RICHMOND’S Bachar Houli has expressed his sadness at being caught up in a vilification controversy.
Melbourne radio announcer John Burns issued an apology on Monday after it was alleged he had referred to Houli, a devout Muslim, as a "terrorist" during the Tigers' loss to Melbourne on Friday night.
Burns said he didn't remember if he had used that word in a conversation with a friend, but Richmond backed the version of events as recounted by a club official who overhead the exchange and lodged a complaint.
"It's just sad to hear it especially in this day and age with the way that we celebrate diversity and celebrate all different cultures," Houli told FoxFooty.
"It's something that we shouldn't accept within our society. We've come a long way and it is definitely a minority - it's not the majority of Australians.
"We are moving forward, but it's just sad to see it pop up every now and then."
Burns spoke to 3AW's Tom Elliott on Monday afternoon and said that while he didn't recall making such a comment, he apologised unreservedly if any offence had been caused.
"It has been suggested to me that during a conversation with my friend, I was overheard saying something which that person found offensive," Burns said in a statement.
"I have no recollection of making an offensive remark.
"However, I acknowledge that a complaint has been made and the idea that something I've said has offended someone is mortifying to me.
"If I have said anything that has offended anybody, I unreservedly apologise. In particular, to the people at the match and the Richmond Football Club."
Richmond also released a statement on Monday, acknowledging Burns' apology but supporting the club staffer who raised the initial complaint.
"Richmond Football Club acknowledges the statement released by 3AW's John Burns this afternoon in relation to an incident that took place at the MCG on Friday night," it said.
"The club fully supports the staff member who brought this issue to its attention and accepts his version of events. We also accept the apology and now consider the matter closed."
The abuse allegation centred on Richmond's official match function during the first quarter of the game against Melbourne.
Burns was sitting in seats outside the Olympic Room, where the function was based.
Richmond CEO Brendon Gale confirmed the investigation.
"We are investigating an allegation of racial abuse directed at Bachar Houli during Friday night's game," Gale said.
"The incident was brought to my attention by a member of our executive team."
The AFL has confirmed that it is aware of the investigation.
Houli, 26, who was drafted by Essendon in 2006, became the first practising Muslim to play the game at the national level and works for the AFL as a multicultural ambassador.
Richmond captain Trent Cotchin said the allegation was disappointing and the game needed to make a strong stand against racial abuse.
"It happens all over the world and we need to be a better environment and create a better culture," Cotchin said on Monday.
"There's no place for it in our game. As a collective we need to make a stronger stand on it.
"He's one of those guys who won't want it to be about him. He'll want it to be about what's right and what's wrong.
"I'm sure there'll be a resolution."
- with staff writers