Daniel Wild On The Rita Panahi Show – How Australians Do Not Want Politics Being In Sport Sky News Australia

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2 June 2023
Daniel Wild On The Rita Panahi Show – How Australians Do Not Want Politics Being In Sport Sky News Australia - Featured image

On June 2, IPA Deputy Executive Director Daniel Wild discusses with Rita Panahi on Sky News Australia how Australians are sick and tired of politics being injected into their favourite sports.

All media appearances posted onto the IPA website are directly related to the promotion and dissemination of IPA research.

Below is a transcript of the interview.


Rita Panahi:

Welcome back. Just weeks after the AFL and NRL decided to back the Voice to Parliament, the issue of sport washing is back in the news again, with the Climate Council launching a voluntary code for sports organizations, encouraging them to remove fossil fuel sponsorships from uniforms, stadiums, and cultural events. Climate Council’s Head of Advocacy says “Their framework will” and I quote here, “Help CEOs and boards of these organizations do some deep thinking about whether their values as a club are aligned with fossil fuels.” Joining me now is Daniel Wild Deputy Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs. Do fans really care about whether their club shares values with fossil fuels? And exactly what are fossil fuel values? I’m not across that.

Daniel Wild:

Yeah. Well, I think it’s fair to say that most Australians have had a bit of a gut full of all this politics being injected into sport. People want to go to sport to get away from politics, to connect with their friends and their family and their community. We did some polling on the back of the Netball Australia saga, which found that over six in 10 Australians believe that politics has no place in sport. And right throughout our history, sport has been such a critical part of our social fabric. We all get together, no matter our race or our gender or our background or our religion, we rub shoulders with different people. Now we have these elite sporting stars and sporting codes who are very wealthy by the way, for playing under those lights, which have to be powered by something, and now they’re engaging in this divisive politics. You mentioned the Voice to Parliament. This is just another example of how sport is becoming a vehicle for politics rather than bringing us together as a community.

Rita Panahi:

Pretty much everything elite sport does is fueled by fossil fuels, whether you’re talking about catching planes everywhere, the stadiums, the uniforms, the entire thing is dependent on that. But meanwhile, we’ve got the Australian reporting that a group of high profile Fremantle Docker fans have already urged their team’s management to cut ties with major sponsor Woodside, as they produce oil and gas. Oh my gosh. There is undoubtedly Daniel, as you said, an increase in political activism. We’re seeing it in and around sporting clubs. Some would say it’s healthy, sport is used to push progressive values as they call them, but it’s alienating to a lot of stakeholders, including fans.

Daniel Wild:

It is, look, people are sick and tired of it. I mean, if you go to a sporting game when they have a welcome to country or some other politically correct sermon, most of the fans just stand there in silence because they’re too scared to boo it. Back in the day, this kind of thing would’ve been booed and people would not have put up with it. But what we’ve seen over many years is particularly the AFL has really been at war with its fan base. Pretty much all the decisions they make from changing the rules of the game every single year to wanting to change the grand final time, and now on politics and so-called racism issues in sport. The AFL is always at war with the community rather than investing in the community, they keep doing this politics, which is turning people off.

Rita Panahi:

Well, they called their own fans racists for booing Adam Goodes, despite the fact that players get booed routinely. And the reasons around him being booed were complex and varied. And I’m not going to re-litigate that, but that was such an absolute lie that was just accepted as gospel. And now you know there’s multiple documentaries on that saga. That’s right. Pushing that lie. Now, there’s been a development tonight in the Hawthorn saga. The Herald Sun reports, the aggrieved individuals at the center of the League’s deal on the Hawthorn racism scandal have released an explosive statement. And for the first time reveal themselves.

They have described their eight-month ordeal as “a shit show.” That’s a direct quote. And we’ve learned the names of some of the parties making allegations include Premiership, Cyril Rioli, his wife, Shannyn, Carl Peterson, Jermaine Miller Lewis and wife Montana, and former Hawk staffer, Leon Egan. They’ve all been named, they say the three former Hawk staffers are not exonerated and the group of officially lodged proceedings in the Australian Human Rights Commission. Now, this is a mess on so many levels. What was that press conference from Gillon McLachlan all about on Tuesday night? Because according to this statement, the players don’t seem to have agreed to what was said.

Daniel Wild:

Look, it’s a bizarre situation. And look, this is what happens when the AFL and other football clubs and sporting clubs hold themselves out as the moral arbiters. They’re going to be held to their own standards. They are the ones that have been pushing politics, talking about racism in sport. Look, I’m sure that there are instances of racism and abuse. We all want that to be stamped out. But the idea that the entire Hawthorn Football Club or the entire fan base of Hawthorn or the entire Australian Rules Football League is racist, structurally racist, just beggar’s belief. And look at all the opportunities that Indigenous Australians have had in sporting goals. They’ve had such a great run. It’s a way that they’ve been integrated in our society. They’re so talented, so many of them. And it’s a great shame that now when many fans go to sport, they sort of think of this racism issue rather than as treating people with merit and what they can contribute.

Rita Panahi:

For as long as I followed football, the Indigenous players were the most popular and are the most popular. They get the biggest cheers. They’re often the favorite of the fans because they just are so talented, so exciting to watch. So, you would think that would be a cause to celebrate, but there seems to be this just grievance mongering among some officials. And what we’re seeing now with Hawthorn, this going to the Australian Human Rights Commission, and I mentioned at the top of the show, the process there is the punishment. It is a really lengthy, stressful, can be a very costly process. What can the parties here look forward to, particularly those who are being accused of racism and bullying?

Daniel Wild:

Yeah. Well, look, I hope that they can reach a better outcome than this, but this is going to drag on for years. I mean, they’ve said in that statement that they’re going to go to the Human Rights Commission. And as I read it, if that’s not satisfactory, they’re going to keep going through the court system. So, this could take years. This could drain a lot of money out of the Hawthorn Footy Club. There’s going to be a cloud over the game for a long time. Like I say, if there are instances of racism, deal with it. But this long-drawn-out process I don’t think is in anyone’s interests.

Rita Panahi:

No, and it’s very damaging for the game. And again, this is, I would argue, self-inflicted. What business did Hawthorn have to go and launch an inquiry, have an activist pin their report, and start? I mean, if there were grievances, surely there are channels where you can take them that are outside the club, whether it’s work cover or whether if it’s something that’s criminal, you can go to the police. Why are football clubs deciding that they’re going to be judge and jury, and have these reports with conclusions at the end of them?

Daniel Wild:

Yeah, it’s a really good question. I think it gets to do with the workification of sport. We send it through business to start with where you have these HR departments, which are not really acting in the interest of the business. They’re sort of pushing ESG or diversity, equity and inclusion gender. And we’ve seen that sort of integrated now into sporting codes, where they’re basically operating an entirely separate sort of organization in a sense. And I don’t get the sense that they are acting in the interests of the footy club, and there’s just such a bizarre situation. Like I say, it’s going to end up very divisive, and I don’t think anyone’s going to win out of it.

Rita Panahi:

No. And finally, we saw again that political activism in the game with state of origin. There’s nothing bigger than that. And there was a call to support the yes vote during the Welcome to Country.

Daniel Wild:

Yeah.

Rita Panahi:

How did you take that? It’s copped plenty of criticism, but it’s also copped praise. Is that fair enough? If you are doing a Welcome to Country, are you entitled to say there’s a referendum coming up and this is how you should vote?

Daniel Wild:

Look, I don’t think they should be doing that just in the same way. I don’t think anyone should be there saying “Vote no.” Like I say, people have just had a gut full of this. And this is another example of how the elites are lining up against mainstream Australians, whether it’s sporting codes, big business, academia, civil society, many of the religious organization, the list goes on. This is an elitist project being driven out of Canberra in the big corporate boardrooms to try and morally bully Australians into voting yes for something that most people don’t even really understand. But don’t forget the voice isn’t even about reconciliation or recognition. It’s about a new Canberra based bureaucracy in the Constitution, and most people don’t have that understanding. So, they’re trying to pull the wool over the eyes, and people have had a gut full of this. So, I think this has backfired on the yes case.

Rita Panahi:

Daniel Wild, thank you for joining me tonight.

Daniel Wild:

Pleasure.

This transcript with Daniel Wild talking on Sky New from 2 June 2023 has been edited for clarity.

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