Australians go to the footy to get away from politics and watch and enjoy the footy. Elitist sports administrators would rather abuse their positions as custodians of our favourite games to grandstand about their own divisive beliefs and undermine the unifying force of sport in Australia.
In June in the AFL and the NRL, following the restart of their coronavirus-delayed seasons, players from all clubs participated in ritualistic pre-game kneeling in support of the international political movement, Black Lives Matter. This was carried out with the express approval of the AFL and the NRL administrators and the club officials and egged on by a sympathetic media.
Behind the title Black Lives Matter is a radical set of ideas. The entire premise of the BLM movement is that Western society structurally impedes racial equality and that this can only be fixed by fundamental structural change to the West. Their cause is revolution based on the divisive ideology of identity politics.
Presumably, the players do not actually support BLM’s demands for defunding and abolishing police, “disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure”, or dismantling capitalism as one of the “state structures” which disproportionately harms black people. For the players, capitalism is one of the “state structures” which makes their lucrative playing salaries and sponsorship deals a reality.
But the AFL and the NRL should know better than to go along with this. Aussie rules icon Sam Newman captured the mood well in a post to Twitter which said “Division, conflict, fury, rage, angst, anarchy, disruption, group guilt, group shaming, acquiescence. Don’t include everyone in the mob mentality, please. AFL is sport!”
The administrators of our sporting codes are custodians of something of great value to Australians. Sport displays man’s competitive spirit in a noble contest which celebrates human excellence. These values are universal, making sport a source of commonality that crosses racial and religious lines.
Because of this sport should be an escape from the things that do divide us. And there are few things more divisive than the ignoble political contests.
In recent years our sporting codes have institutionalised political grandstanding and moralising to members and spectators as a central part of the game. The AFL and the NRL have given their longstanding support to the campaign to divide Australians by race in the Australian Constitution and their support for changing the definition of marriage in 2017.
In 2019 Rugby Australia terminated the playing contract of star Israel Folau for making comments on social media which reflected his personal religious views. At a code of conduct hearing in May 2019, then-Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle reportedly suggested she would have terminated Folau’s contract if he had even “photocopied Bible passages” and posted them on social media.
New polling by market research firm Dynata and commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs confirms that Australians have had a gutful of our favourite past times being used as a vehicle to promote the narrow ideological obsessions of an arrogant elite.
The poll asked 1,011 Australians between 19 and 23 December 2019 to agree or disagree with the statement that “Sporting codes like the AFL and NRL have become too politically correct.” 51 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement and just 17 per cent disagreed (the remaining third neither agreed nor disagreed).
This is not a case of the sporting codes simply reflecting the widely accepted views of the community. The people who control sports and the people who enjoy them are different people with different kinds of beliefs. It is a reflection of the broader disconnect between the elites and the mainstream.
The people who run Aussie rules, rugby league, or rugby union, are increasingly bureaucratic and as such are prone to the same biases and assumptions of those in academia, the ABC, and the major corporations who believe in identity politics, climate change, and central planning. They could not understand why anyone would boo indigenous former Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes, use social media to quote the Bible, or get upset at players “taking a knee”. They probably haven’t met anyone who didn’t think Donald Trump was every kind of –ist and –phobe you can name.
Sport is a part of the cultural fabric that ties Australians together, but woke lecturers in the sporting codes are abusing their positions to divide us further. Australians recognise the importance of sport and the simple wisdom that politics does not belong there.