SYDNEY (Reuters) - Former rugby league player Anthony Mundine has urged Australians to follow the lead set by NFL players in the United States and boycott the national anthem in the grand finals of two local competitions at the weekend.
The AFL’s Australian Rules grand final is due to be held in Melbourne on Saturday before the National Rugby League (NRL) grand final is held in Sydney on Sunday. Both are considered marquee sporting events in Australia.
A campaign to boycott the anthems at both matches has been launched by Australian pop culture website Junkee and Mundine used social media on Thursday to promote the campaign and raise awareness of the treatment of indigenous Australians.
”Been saying this for years!,“ Mundine wrote on his Facebook page. ”All players aboriginal & non aboriginal should boycott the anthem & start changing Australia’s ignorant mentality.
“Lets move forward together yo.”
The protest follows the movement sparked by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the anthem ahead of games in protest against the treatment of African Americans.
His protest has spread to other players and sports in North America.
Former rugby league players, Larry Corowa and Joe Williams last week also urged indigenous players in the NRL final to not stand for the anthem.
“Imagine if a couple of guys did it on grand final day -- what a powerful message it would send to white Australia,” Williams told Rugby League Week.
”It would bring all the racism that’s in the closet to the surface -- the racism we have to put up with every day. The way we are treated in shops, the way people look at us on the street and the way the government treats us.
“It’s time it stopped. And our footballers are role models and the ideal ones to bring about change.”
Australian Rules has battled the booing and racist abuse of indigenous players, with the now retired Sydney Swans utility Adam Goodes at the forefront of the recent stand against the behaviour.
He once had a 13-year-old girl ejected from the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground during a match in 2013 after she called him an “ape”.
Goodes upset conservatives with his vocal campaigning for indigenous Australians, who lag the mainstream in basic human indicators, and was constantly booed during his last season in 2015, though fellow players, clubs and the AFL publicly supported his stance.
Editing by John O'Brien