Sport Will the Wallabies take a knee for Black Lives Matter?

11:40  22 october  2020
11:40  22 october  2020 Source:   msn.com

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Dane Haylett-Petty says the Wallabies will "definitely consider" taking a knee . (Reuters: Paul Childs, Action Images). What is the significance of the Wallabies wearing a jersey that represents Aboriginal culture in the aftermath of the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests from earlier this year?

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The launch of the new Wallabies Indigenous jersey came with a strange disconnect in politically charged times: There are no Indigenous players in the current Wallabies squad.

Former international Gary Ella spoke with pride about the jersey and the contributions of the 14 Aboriginal players who have taken the field for Australia.

The last of them was Kurtley Beale, who is now playing in France, and sent a video message to the launch at Redfern's National Centre for Indigenous Excellence, explaining what playing in the jersey meant to him.

So, as three Wallabies players — Dane Haylett-Petty, Filipo Daugunu and Harry Wilson — modelled the jersey for the media with some pride, and in the aftermath of the comments from Beale and Ella, some questions arose in my mind.

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Cricket player Ben Dunk did not take a knee for Black Lives Matter before game. Backlash fury as Wallabies consider taking a Taking a knee to show support for the movement has spread through the sporting world - first with NBA and NFL players in America and then to other countries such as the

The Black Lives Matters movement has grown around the world since the death of American George Floyd while being arrested in May. And all recent Premier League football matches have seen players take a knee before kick-off — a move Super League said they wanted to replicate.

What is the significance of the Wallabies wearing a jersey that represents Aboriginal culture in the aftermath of the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests from earlier this year?

The protests in Australia echoed the weight of feeling of those in the US following the killing of George Floyd, as Indigenous Australians drew comparisons between themselves and black Americans.

Taking a knee in support of BLM became a symbol of support for sporting teams around the world and in Australia, including the players of every AFL and NRL club.

Sporting teams, including EPL clubs, are still taking a knee before each match, even though the initial wave of protest has passed.

But as yet, no Australian national sporting team has taken a knee.

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England cricketers took the knee for 30 seconds before the start of the first test at the Ageas Bowl to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Footballers have been taking a knee at the start of matches since football resumed in June as part of global sporting protests against racial injustice On players taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Rowett added: "Is it a political message, is it an anti-discrimination message?

The Australian cricket team was criticised by the great West Indies fast bowler, Michael Holding, when it decided not to make the statement before the first one-day international against England in September.

England also decided against it, although the players did take a knee alongside the West Indies during their tour in July.

Australian ODI captain Aaron Finch argued that "the education around it is more important than the protest" — a rationale dubbed "lame" and "flimsy" by Holding.

More recently the Australian Opals, led by Liz Cambage — a passionate protester at a Melbourne BLM protest — launched a movement called Rise UP, standing for Respect, Injustice, Standards, Equality, Unity, Peace.

Earlier the Opals had threatened to strike until Basketball Australia committed to eliminate racial injustice in the sport.

With those precedents in mind, I asked Haylett-Petty, the elder statesmen of the three Wallabies at the jersey launch, whether the squad had discussed taking a knee.

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"No, it wasn't something that the Wallabies squad discussed," he said.

"But I think it's great that, I think sport has an amazing opportunity to have a say and join conversations and I think a lot of sports have done that and, yeah, be a great thing for us to do."

I then asked whether taking a knee was something the team would consider before playing a future Test on home soil?

"I think I obviously can't speak for everyone, but I think it would be a great show of support," Haylett-Petty said.

"I think that's probably a discussion to have as a group and we would definitely consider it."

To be fair, Haylett-Petty was clearly caught unawares by the line of questioning, which was the first in the press conference and not directly on the topic of the jersey or even the Test match two days earlier against the All Blacks.

But he delivered a measured and sensible response without the luxury of consideration and possibly knowing any answer he gave could be politically sensitive in the world of rugby union.

And so, it's come to pass.

Former Australia captain Nick Farr-Jones was asked about Haylett-Petty's comments today on Sydney radio station 2GB, and said the move would be "too risky" and possibly "divisive".

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"To take the risk of basically splitting the support the Wallabies are starting to earn through their gutsy performances in Wellington and Auckland — just don't do it guys, it's too risky," Farr-Jones said.

"You run the risk that a few [viewers] would just turn off. They don't want to see politics in national sport. That's a real risk."

Farr-Jones's opinion that rugby fans "don't want to see politics in national sport" is arguably not giving them their fair due.

Politics and sport are now, and have always been, intertwined — just ask any Indigenous Australian who's played sport in this country.

The entire AFL and NRL playing lists have already shown they can take a knee and win the support of all fans, with just a few exceptions, and it is fair to assume that rugby fans would take the same attitude.

In giving a measured public response to an unexpected question, Haylett-Petty has opened up the possibility of the Wallabies squad discussing the option of taking the knee before the next Bledisloe Cup game against New Zealand on Saturday week.

The question will now be asked of all Wallabies and others associated with the game between now and then.

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