Sport: We need sporting heroes to unite us, not divide us - - PressFrom - Australia

Sport We need sporting heroes to unite us, not divide us

21:26  07 november  2019
21:26  07 november  2019 Source:

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Margaret Court, Rod Laver are posing for a picture: Margaret Court and Rod Laver.© AP, Shaughn and John Margaret Court and Rod Laver.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

It’s about time sport caught up with the rest of us. We don’t accept drug cheats. We don’t accept racists (OK, not true, but we're working on this). Australians overwhelmingly voted against homophobia and for marriage equality. We now recognise men and women should be paid the same for the same work. There is even some progress when it comes to disability rights.

Now sport must do the same. This week Margaret Court asked Tennis Australia to talk to her before the 50th anniversary of her grand slam year, saying she would not return to Melbourne Park without a formal welcome and recognition of her career. And male football fans joined in a pile-on to Matildas’ star Elise Kellond-Knight at the news that the “female footballers” would now receive equal pay to the Socceroos (it’s not equal yet, but more on that later).

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These responses are from an Australia of the past. Court rejected Australians when she said she did not accept equal marriage, and now she wants to be feted and fanned in a country where one in seven Australians is gay or lesbian. She was the one who said “tennis is full of lesbians”, that transgender children are influenced by the devil and are part of a mind control plot as seen in Nazi Germany, that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Now she wants our acclaim and respect and a celebration of her anniversary while continuing to spread horrifying conspiracy theories. Any respect she has earned through her sporting accomplishments has been lost through her own irrelevant actions but she now claims her comments should have no bearing on her tennis legacy which includes a court named after her. I recognise her great tennis achievements but she needs to recognise the achievements of Australia as it seeks to be a better country.

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I love sport. A lot. Some of my favourite times include being slumped on the couch on Boxing Day, surrounded by my family who are more or less engaged. But just as Margaret Court has shown us sport’s worst face, the Matildas and the Socceroos have shown us its best (OK, Ash Barty has shown us the best and let’s hope we get to see all her matches on the television this summer and not the bad loser boys endlessly). This week, the FFA announced that the women’s football team and the men’s football team would receive equal pay. Kind of. The two teams will receive equal shares of the commercial revenue of the sport but it will be some time before the women are actually getting equal pay, because club payments for women are way behind those for men and that will take some catching up.

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And the response? An avalanche of men complaining that the women haven’t earned the pay, that it’s a gift, that women’s sport is boring, and on it goes. As if winning didn’t matter to these giant losers. The women have dominated their sport while the men have more or less disappeared from the world stage.

Elise Kellond-Knight was somewhat surprised by the response. She’s played for Australia more than 100 times. Finished an undergrad pharmacy degree (but reckons she should have done law). And, at least as of Wednesday, is a fully-fledged feminist. Not long after the announcement she tweeted: “Wow I’ve read more male chauvinistic remarks in the last 1hr, than my entire life put together. This is almost making me want to be a feminist. We work as hard as the men, we deserve an equal opportunity. Thanks to those in support of today’s news!”

She remembers what soccer was like when she first started playing at the top level. There was zero interaction with the men’s team and certainly the men weren’t openly supportive. “We were always playing catch-up,” she remembers.

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Now Kellond-Knight can see what’s happening in the US, where women not only totally dominate the game and are far more successful than the men, but also bring in huge revenue, even to club matches. Ten years ago, she didn’t think she would ever get an equal share of the revenue, but now she recognises that equality matters.

“Then it didn’t even occur to me to ask but then we didn’t have the fan base we have now.” She says the response on social media didn’t bother her. So much disturbance from those who are uneducated. “I got a good laugh out of it [but] I’m a strong-willed person and an independent lady so it doesn’t faze me.”

So does she now call herself a feminist? She says it has some negative aspects but then concedes that her response on Wednesday makes her a feminist by default. She’s also pretty impressed with the way soccer – Craig Foster in particular and the players’ associations – involved itself with the campaign to free refugee player Hakeem al-Araibi. Footballers are now in the position to go out there and fight for really important causes, including human rights.

Shame not all sporting figures feel the same way.

Some winners become less appealing over time. We now know that Lance Armstrong was a drug cheat; and Marion Jones. Ben Johnson. These are people we no longer respect. Margaret Court is no drug cheat but she too has demeaned tennis with her words and deeds. We need sporting heroes to unite us, not divide us.

Jenna Price is an academic at the University of Technology Sydney and a regular columnist.

'Quiet Australians may be quiet, but they're not stupid' .
Sky News host Peta Credlin says Prime Minister Scott Morrison "will rue the day" a form of a voice to parliament "ends up in legislation" emphasising "his quiet Australians might be quiet but they are certainly not stupid"."There is an inherent contradiction in any attempt to unite Australians by treating people differently - indeed, it's the very fallacy at the heart of identity politics," she said.

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