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Sport When Nicky Winmar did this 25 years ago: 'I'm proud to be black'

00:35  15 april  2018
00:35  15 april  2018 Source:   theage.com.au

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Wayne Ludbey's famous photo of Nicky Winmar : " I ' m proud to be black ." Nicky Winmar stood on the same turf where, 25 years earlier, he had defied his abusers – and the conventions of the day – to make a spontaneous gesture that changed football.

When Nicky Winmar did this 25 years ago : ' I ' m proud to be black '. Nicky Winmar stood on the same turf where, 25 years earlier, he made a spontaneous gesture that changed football. theage.com.au.

25 years on: Nicky Winmar and the photographer that took the iconic photo, Wayne Ludbey.© Scott McNaughton 25 years on: Nicky Winmar and the photographer that took the iconic photo, Wayne Ludbey. Nicky Winmar stood on the same turf where, 25 years earlier, he had defied his abusers – and the conventions of the day – to make a spontaneous gesture that changed football.

‘‘The picture stands for itself,’’ said Winmar.

Indeed, it does. The image is one of those few – like the victorious American soldiers raising their nation’s flag at Iwo Jima in 1945 – that is self-explanatory, requiring little elaboration for anyone to understand what it signified.

The picture tells us: A man, abused because of his skin colour, lifted his jumper up and pointed to his dark skin, proclaiming – as he also did with words – I'm black and I'm proud of it.

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Nicky Winmar stood on the same turf where, 25 years earlier, he made a spontaneous gesture that changed football. Marcia Langton 24h ago .

When Nicky Winmar did this 25 years ago : ' I ' m proud to be black '. Nicky Winmar stood on the same turf where, 25 years earlier, he made a spontaneous gesture that changed football.

Wayne Ludbey's famous photo of Nicky Winmar: © Wayne Ludbey Wayne Ludbey's famous photo of Nicky Winmar: "I'm proud to be black." Soon, this image will be an AFL-sanctioned statue.

‘‘Twenty-five years ago, we're still standing here, talking here, talking about the same story, which is part of history,’’ said Winmar, who went back to Victoria Park last Thursday to discuss the raising of the jumper with the man who took the feted photo, Wayne Ludbey.

Much, though not all, of what happened that Saturday afternoon, on April 17, 1993, has been well recorded, even if the player’s words – and intent – were disputed in the early, contentious days that followed publication of Ludbey's photo on the lower section of the front page of The Sunday Age.

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When Nicky Winmar did this 25 years ago : ' I ' m proud to be black '. Nicky Winmar stood on the same turf where, 25 years earlier, he made a spontaneous gesture that changed football. watoday.com.au.

Neil Elvis " Nicky " Winmar (born 25 September 1965) is a former Australian rules footballer, best known for his career for St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs in the Australian Football League (AFL), as well as South Fremantle in the West Australian Football League.

Victoria Park – emptied of fans and stands (on one side of the ground), tranquilised and transformed into a trendy public park – jogged Winmar's memory.

Details – some known, others revelatory – came flooding back to a slower moving 52-year-old man who has ‘‘pins and needles’’ in his hip, says he struggles to drive for longer than 50 kilometres and can no longer run at all.

On the late afternoon we meet, Winmar's first recollection was ‘‘how horrific it was. A guy went to play there and got verbally abused. It wasn't nice at the time.’’

He recalled that the hostility of the Collingwood crowd was such that he and his family required security guards to take them to his car outside the ground. He and his wife had not gone home, either.

‘‘That night I ended up staying at (rock impresario and St Kilda fanatic) Molly Meldrum’s place. We didn't go home because of what happened ... it's sad you had to be escorted to your car by three or four security.’’

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While there is still work to do , without Nicky Winmar ’s heroic stand 25 years ago , the national dialogue that was the impetus for bringing the AFL out of the racial vilification doldrums would have never happened.

Nicky Winmar stood on the same turf where, 25 years earlier, he made a spontaneous gesture that changed football.

Winmar walked with me to beside the race in front of the intact TW Sherrin Stand. Here, he pointed to the seats in the pocket – the region where Peter Daicos performed geometric miracles with the Sherrin – and quietly said that a few Aboriginal Collingwood fans at the ground ‘‘threw their memberships away’’ in disgust – siding with their own, against their own.

‘‘They were fighting their own supporters. They said ‘no, we're not coming back here after that’.’’

Winmar throws kisses to the jeering crowd.© Wayne Ludbey Winmar throws kisses to the jeering crowd. Winmar had exited the field at this spot, the old visiting team's race.

Had he been spat on here on the day? ‘‘Yeah,’’ he said casually. ‘‘Bastards.’’ This was not unheard of for visitors of all colours at Victoria Park.

I ask him what was said by the abusers. ‘‘Called me a black c--- and that sort of stuff,’’ he replied.

Ludbey recalled that Winmar, having been close to best afield in St Kilda’s first victory at Victoria Park in 15 years (Ludbey thought Winmar had shaded teammate and fellow Aborigine Gilbert McAdam, who was also racially abused), had ‘‘put his hands above his head’’ in jubilation.

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Former St Kilda player Nicky Winmar with the famous photograph taken 25 years ago on 17 April 1993. “Imagine if our feats on sporting fields had inspired admiration and patriotism and yet did nothing to diminish prejudice,” he said.

Nicky Winmar had had little to do with his son for nearly 20 years , and the pair hadn't even spoken for a decade until, two years ago , Tynan decided it was time not only to reconnect, but to tell his dad for the first time about his sexuality. " I ' m proud of my son," says the former Saint.

Years on, Ludbey could point to the spot, inside the old centre square.

Ludbey said Winmar had blown the incensed crowd kisses.

‘‘I was trying to calm them down as well,’’ Winmar jested.

Ludbey added: ‘‘At one stage, he might have turned around and showed them his bottom.’’

Winmar's version? ‘‘Kiss my -rse.’’

Kisses blown, backside bared, then came the iconic act.

‘‘He stood, proudly, indignantly – like a warrior,’’ said Ludbey.

''The chin came up ... then he lifted his jumper and pointed and he said ‘I'm proud to be black’.’’

Winmar walked out on the Saints immediately after the Victoria Park game in what was reported as a pay dispute, eventually returning after a few weeks.

Now, he says the racial abuse was part of his decision to take leave, which seemed to derail the Saints.

‘‘I was a bit upset and hurt about it, not only about the pay dispute, but what dealing with the name calling and threats and that stuff.’’

Ludbey's was actually not the only photo of the moment. One had also been taken and published in the Sunday Herald Sun. But Ludbey, then working for The Sunday Age, had actually heard Winmar’s words.

The Sunday Age, April, 18, 1993© Fairfax Photographic The Sunday Age, April, 18, 1993 Having captured the image, the photographer went into what he termed ‘‘hysterical’’ mode in lobbying for the story to be prominently displayed.

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When Nicky Winmar did this 25 years ago : ' I ' m proud to be black ' https Loading seems to be taking a while. Twitter may be over capacity or experiencing a momentary hiccup. Try again or visit Twitter Status for more information.

The thing that’s weird is it’s not even against whites Winmar did . Racism at it's worst, this is what started it. Amazing how only whites are racists, but when a black (or part like him) does something like this it is not, weird eh?

He prevailed to the point that the image ran on page one, in a story written by Nick Place (who also pushed hard for the story, according to Ludbey) underneath the headline: ‘‘Winmar: I'm black and proud of it.’’

Yet, as Ludbey acknowledged, the jumper-raising story was ‘‘a slow burn’’.

It happened barely six months after Paul Keating's Redfern speech – a de facto apology to Indigenous Australia for past wrongs.

Over time, it grew legs and into legend.

One could argue that, due to the potency of the image and footy's mainstream reach, Winmar’s moment made greater cultural inroads than Redfern, which played only to the engaged minority.

‘‘I think we were pretty lonely at the 15-year mark, mate,’’ Ludbey said to Nicky, adding, ‘‘we had a lot of people who thought we'd misinterpreted it, or I'd misinterpreted the moment or romanticised the moment and questioned whether I was standing on the soap box.’’

But the Ludbey/Winmar version was subsequently accepted as correct, rather than derided as correctness.

Initially disputed and arguably underplayed even by this paper, it never turned into a battlefield in the culture wars.

It was amplified when Essendon's Michael Long took up the cudgels against on-field racial abuse two years later post-Anzac Day.

On Tuesday, it will be exactly 25 years and Winmar, an ex-Western Australian who lives in Surfers Paradise, has been in town, largely to be measured by the AFL for the statue of this moment that will be erected outside Perth’s new stadium.

He’s also celebrating the 25th anniversary and preparing the groundwork to launch the next phase of a life (bowing to the necessity of a Facebook page and keen to get on the speaking circuit) that has been beset with hardship, having had troubles with his heart and hips and difficulties – ‘‘really tired and dizziness ... headaches’’ – he says are caused by footy concussions, plus ‘‘pins and needles in my hips, which I'm worried about as well’’.

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Top Documents for Nicky Winmar .

Winmar, who has been working as a mentor in an Indigenous program, said he recently pulled over in his car, unable to drive beyond 50 kilometres. ‘‘Who's going to put someone in a job with sort of brain damage, or mental health issues,’’ he said.

Yet, Winmar did not spare himself, either.

‘‘I had a lot and lost a lot. It wasn't anyone else's fault but my own.’’

The reunion with Victoria Park was replete with further poignancy at the venue where he was abused.

This time, he's mobbed by selfie-seekers, many of them a decade younger than the photo. At their coaches' instigation, the Fitzroy Junior under 15s posed with Winmar in a spontaneous team picture.

This Vic Park was much friendlier. ‘‘Doesn't look scary any more ... Tell you what, there was a certain man named (Darren) Millane. We didn't want to come here when he was playing.’’

In his last visit to Victoria Park, he had assisted his son Tynan, who lives in Melbourne, in coming out as gay, a public moment that was timed with St Kilda's Pride game against the Swans.

Ludbey reckoned he had recognised the enormity of the jumper-lift at the moment it happened.

Winmar was struck by it on the following morning at Meldrum's place. ‘‘The next day I saw it in the paper. I was ‘wow... what have we done here?'

‘‘When I saw the photo that next day, I knew something was going to happen for the rest of my life.’’

Whatever mistakes Neil Elvis Winmar made before and after he raised his jumper, he was right about that.

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