The tribe has spoken
31 October 2022
Once upon a time, sport was an international language.
A child kicking a soccer ball in Argentina could communicate in the same terms as an Italian or Swedish junior – even one from Japan.
The language is one of sport: the love of the game. The universal code.
The language applies to all religions, all people, all sports.
The language speaks of the challenge. The goal. The team unity. The individual strength.
The soaring heights of victory. The lows of defeat. The hope. The possibilities. The dreams. The fans.
It is the international language where no words are needed to understand everything.
Sport raises us up.
But introduce politics, and the splendour fades. How have we allowed it to happen? Why have we allowed it?
Partisan politics and sport do not mix. Ideological politics and sport divide. Politics is the antithesis to sport.
The easiest example of that came to us with the Essendon Football Club saga. It appointed a CEO one day, and by the next, he was driven to resign. Andrew Thorburn’s Christianity was too much for the politically ‘correct’, the social elites who get to decide who and what is good.
It is a simple formula: someone is good if they agree with the virtue signallers and their beliefs – someone is bad if they disagree.
The tribe has spoken at Essendon. The Premier, Daniel Andrews, was part of that tribe, continuing his talent to represent some, but not all. When it comes to believers, Daniel Andrews is a religion of his own.
But the Essendon matter is wholly unsurprising: we had it coming. Supported by Woke boardrooms, the AFL has become both Creator and Guardian Angel of political intrusion and interference in sport.
Netball Australia and Cricket Australia have caught the bug. Their elite athletes cough and splutter with business-class hypocrisy.
In Netball Australia’s case, Gina Rinehart had every right to call an end to her $15 million gift. There are others who will respect her company’s brand, its bankrolling of the nation, job creation, and its extraordinary effort to fund the global dreams of our nation’s best young athletes including Olympic swimmers and rowers.
Tennis champion and Greatest Of All Time, Margaret Court, understands the dangers of expressing private thoughts publicly, thoughts deemed politically incorrect.
Who needs to watch a thrilling game of tennis when we now clap and revere according to how they vote in a referendum? Perhaps a quiet note to the marketing department: tickets might be harder to sell.
Diversity officers abound. Politically correct deeds flourish.
For the AFL, there was once a time when people simply went to watch the sport: a magnificent game with plenty enough happening not to require political sideshows or overtones.
But these days, there seems barely a round that isn’t dedicated to an approved cause.
There is nothing wrong with either the Pride or Indigenous rounds for example, but why pull them out of the hat that’s deep with a thousand good causes? Where is the round for CFA volunteers? Or the round for those who couldn’t attend funerals during lockdown? Or a weekend dedicated to maths and science teachers? Or for people with awful kitchens? For freedom of speech?
There are rounds dedicated to promoting health awareness – the most prominent being Motor Neurone Disease and Breast Cancer. Great causes each and deserving of attention and support.
These are the good things sport enables: the sentiments that unite and do not divide. Non-political.
But add politics, and all of a sudden, it’s not so much fun anymore.
The average Australian can sniff hypocrisy before they see it. They smelled it over Essendon’s Thorburn meltdown, the man who, as NAB Group Chief Executive Officer, introduced the Pride Round to the AFL in March 2015 to celebrate ‘…diversity and the LGBTQ+ community’.
No one has riled about that, or the NAB’s support of Climate Change legislation or sustainability awareness. It is only Thorburn’s religious associations that were trapped in the social jury’s snare.
But where were Premier Andrews’ words – his holier-than-thou indignation – for AFLW player and Muslim, Haneen Zreika, over her withdrawal from the round eight Pride match for religious reasons, and not for the first time? Crickets. Or as Richard Flanagan might put it, the sound of one hand clapping.
The Pride Round is political. The Australians I know don’t particularly care what someone’s sexuality is. They care that the person is happy and healthy. But by singling out the rainbow warriors, they are signalling a demarcation. Creating categories, division.
Similarly, why single out the Indigenous Round, when players on the field come from many corners and cultures of the world? Are the Italian or Irish players less suitable to celebrate? Every player has a history, a place, a culture. Celebrate them all by not singling one out. That’s real unity. That’s sport.
Sport is losing its ability to speak all languages.
I yearn for the days where we just cheer on outstanding athletes without wondering what they think in private.
Sport is great enough on its own. It doesn’t need politics.
But maybe politics needs sport.
Bev McArthur is Liberal Member for Western Victoria and Shadow Assistant Minister for Scrutiny of Government.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
comment by Nelle- Indeed the woke brigade continues to overturn life as we know it- they seem to think we have to agree and support their way of thinking and acting even though our way is on an opposite path to theirs-I don’t care what they do as long as they don’t change what is normal and how come they are now in control -someone commented that SSM didn’t change anything but it has changed everything and we are not allowed to live peacefully with our values and traditions-where is the equality in that?