West Coast Eagles AFL player Nic Naitanui says a mother who proudly dressed her son up in black face paint so he could emulate his favourite footballer should reflect on the racist history of blackface.
The Perth, Western Australia, mother said she painted her "pastey [sic] white" son's face black so he would be easily recognised as his favourite player for a book week parade.
She said that at first she wasn't going to upload the photo, fearing an online backlash from "politically correct extremists", but she decided to anyway.
The woman said her son won the parade and that she was going to celebrate her parenting win by having a wine before midday.
The post quickly caused outrage on social media, with many pointing out it was the latest in a string of racist incidents involving the AFL.
Last weekend a young Port Adelaide fan denied she had racist motivations when she threw a banana at Indigenous player Eddie Betts. Last year, Indigenous star Adam Goodes was driven from the game by relentless booing from fans.
On Friday morning, Naitanui weighed in, saying the image of a little boy in blackface "hurts his heart".
"The young blood's innocence merely attempting to emulate his hero hurts my heart," he said. "Especially when that hero is me!"
Naitanui said critics of the mother shouldn't target the boy, and that people should use the incident as an opportunity to learn.
"It's a shame that racism co-exists in an environment where our children should be nurtured, not tortured because they are unaware of the painful historical significance of 'blackface'," he said.
"I don't believe the mother had any intention to cause harm, just wanted her kid to simply be 'Nic Nat' however may reflect on this and choose an alternate method next time."