25 October 2022

Do sport and politics mix, or should players keep their mouths shut about funding sources?

| Ross Solly
Join the conversation
Netball game

Should netballers have the right to refuse sponsorship deals? Photo: Netball Australia.

Will all those who have been saying sport and politics should not mix, and sportspeople should keep their mouths shut and just worry about their game be crowing after recent events?

Netball Australia has had a $15 million sponsorship withdrawn after players revolted against being associated with Hancock Prospecting.

It’s a big price to pay for taking a stand on principle, especially for a sport that could barely rub two coins together before Gina Rinehart came riding to its rescue.

So should sport and politics be intertwined?

In my formative years, it seemed the two were never far apart.

READ ALSO How did the Allies’ biggest WWI trophy end up in Canberra (and then in pieces)?

The Olympic boycotts of 1980 and 1984, the ostracisation of South African sport during the 70s and 80s, and the furore over Kerry Packer’s radical reshaping of Australian cricket were all subjects of fierce discussion in the Solly household.

Those same people who believe the job of sportspeople is to play sport also believe it’s the job of musicians to sing songs and play music, and they should stick to crooning about unrequited love and leave discussions about politics and international affairs to the people who allegedly know what they are talking about.

They also decry actors speaking out. I, for one, have no problem with any of the above. You can imagine in a lot of households around Australia last week, there would have been discussions about why a sports team would want to protest about receiving $15 million from a mining company, a discussion which otherwise might never have happened.

READ ALSO 25,000 sign on in fight to save Wakefield Park

Sadly, many sportspeople and musicians have been bullied into keeping their opinions to themselves. Remember the days when Australian musicians like Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly and Redgum used to sing songs about issues of the day, songs which went on to become big hits?

Now the tendency seems to be to ridicule singers and bands who dare speak out. U2 copped a lot of “just shut up and sing about your girlfriends” when they released songs like ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and ‘Pride’. The Cranberries were widely mocked for their song ‘Zombie’.

The Dixie Chicks were blacklisted by country radio stations all over America after they said publicly they were ashamed to be from the same state as President George W Bush and opposed the invasion of Iraq.

Pat Cummins, the very astute Australian cricket captain who strongly believes in standing up for what he believes in, is receiving very unfavourable commentary from some sections of the media for daring to speak out.

READ ALSO Canberra tennis program inspires women to become community leaders

Former Wallabies captain and now ACT Senator David Pocock is another who never shirked away during his playing days from speaking his mind on issues other than who might win or who might play fullback in the next rugby test.

The Rugby Australia sponsorship deal with Santos came after Pocock’s career. If it had come earlier, you can be sure there would have been a confrontation.

Our leading sportspeople and musicians have a unique opportunity. Their views are often heard by and respected a lot more than the thoughts of our elected officials, and if that elevates a discussion some might consider uncomfortable into the public arena, surely that is a good thing.

But as we are seeing, taking on such a responsibility can carry a heavy price. They need skin as tough as a rhino. The social media pile-on, and the claims of “virtue-signalling” being pedalled by some sections of the media (and Ms Rinehart), will make life very difficult for those who feel the need to speak out.

And the athlete or singer who dares to become a player better be confident of their facts, or they will be chewed up and spat out by the court of public opinion.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
HiddenDragon7:25 pm 25 Oct 22

There is the old saying that beggars can’t be choosers.

Professional players in commercially marginal sports should remember that unless they have independent means, or are prepared to take the vow of poverty while they work towards a career in progressive politics and/or public broadcasting.

It’s unfortunate that it is women’s sport that has been dealt a severe financial blow by expressing legitimate concerns. You’d be hard pressed for any sport to have a major sponsor that isn’t affiliated with some unethical business practices.

There does seem to be greater expectation and more severe punishment for women in the sporting world, certainly more grace offered to men and male dominated industries. Less expectation that men would even care who the sponsor is as long as everyone is getting paid.

Capital Retro12:37 pm 27 Oct 22

Israel Folau would disagree with you about women being more severely punished than men.

Israel Folau expressed bigoted views. The women in question did not.

Capital Retro9:39 pm 27 Oct 22

L Anon referred to women expressing “legitimate concerns” just as Folau had.

You, like many others, use the word “bigoted” because it sounds more authoritive that its true meaning which is simply ” in disagreement”.

While it is certainly the case that actions have repercussions, Hancock is entitled to withdraw its support in the belief it will not get the publicity it desires, so are sports people entitled to seek to protect their own personal and team brands. Many comments here seem not to have noticed that.

When the company Hancock wrote about progressing causes “… without virtue signalling or for self-publicity”, what exactly was Hancock doing but progressing their own cause by virtue signalling (netball support) for self-publicity?

This is not one-sided except to the one-eyed.

Find me a sponsor for anything that hasn’t got a history or current connections to something, somewhere or someone out of favour with current self flaggelants. Take the cash while you can. McDonalds and other fast food purveyors are huge sponsors of sport at all levels while pushing junk food to an ever more obese youth and adult population.

Women’s sport has always had a problem attracting sponsorship. These girls have selfishly put their entire team and sport at risk by engaging in some attention seeking, self indulgent, virtue signalling. Simply because one or two decided to dig up and have a hissy fit out comments from the sponsor’s long dead founder. It is satisfying though to see advocates of cancel culture getting themselves cancelled.

Talk about “Go Woke, Go Broke”.

If a sport is uncomfortable with a sponsor based on a comment, type of business or a personality they need to understand that the sponsor has the right to withdraw their offer.

That said, I think if you dig deep enough, and far back enough there would be lots of companies with practices that, under the magnifying glass of 2022 are not on, or who have management who made inappropriate comments, that don’t reflect modern values.

How far back do you go? How long before you move on from the past?

One of the sticking points is exactly that Rinehart has consistently declined to show that she has moved on from ‘the past’, her father’s genocidal suggestion and attitude.

Otherwise I generally agree with looking at current behaviour rather than visiting sins etc.

Capital Retro3:54 pm 25 Oct 22

In the well paying victim industry you never move on.

It is a current thing to do with Ms Rinehart, CR, not “moving on” from her daddy. I have not designated anyone a victim, nor see a reason or need to. Hancock Prospecting may be as unhappy at lost opportunity (they obviously considered it had a payoff when they entered the arrangement) as the netball players the support.

You are expressing prejudice.

Capital Retro5:35 pm 25 Oct 22

I am expressing fact and I was commenting on the question posed by JessP “How far back do you go? How long before you move on from the past?”

“One of the sticking points is exactly that Rinehart has consistently declined to show that she has moved on from ‘the past’, her father’s genocidal suggestion and attitude.”

I’m interested in how you would see her and her company’s willingness to pour tens of millions of dollars into indigenous causes and programs in light of this.

Is that not moving on?

Why is it incumbent on Ms Rinehart to address 40 year old comments from her father to prove something? Although I’m still unsure what exactly that would prove, even if she did.

Perhaps she doesn’t want to give further credence or currency to those comments and prefers to let actions speak louder than words.

Why should Gina Rinehart move on from her father’s comments?

I would suggest she has more than made up for her father’s atrocious comments by what she has done for Indigenous Australians over the last 20 or 30 years.

CR, your comment was couched entirely in terms of “the victim industry”, nothing else. You express prejudice, nothing else.

Chewy, “give credence”? The comments are on public record, on video, widely reported from those sources. Credence is in zero doubt.

Gary, chewy, no. Rinehart’s most consistent behaviours have revolved around self-interest to the extent of talking self-evident rubbish about CGT while seeking to deny some of her own children their rights to their share of the family trust (a llegal case she lost); rent seeking for a ‘special’ northern tax zone which happened to coincide with her interests, while taking a libertarian position that workers should work harder, without any significant supporting benefits. Supporting ‘good’ native Australians was half of Hancock’s agenda, as Rinehart is doing now (cheaper than fly-in workers too).
For the other half, sterilisation, breeding out, how many milliseconds would it take you to repudiate such an agenda so people knew where you stood? Parent or not. Especially if you want to lay claim to wonderful things. Rinehart conspicuously has not. If it took you a second or more to consider that question, we need not discuss it further.

I actually take your response as part of my point. Those who dislike Rinehart for numerous other reasons (whether legitimate or not), wouldn’t change their opinion of her whether she repudiated her father’s comments or not. They’d simply move on to their next issue with her or claim that motives were not pure in addressing the comments. It wouldn’t let people know where she stands in the way you claim, actions speak louder than words.

By not giving further creedence to those comments she doesn’t give additional ammunition to her existing detractors, nor draw further attention to those historic statements that other people may not have heard previously.

The Streisand effect is real.

Capital Retro9:42 pm 27 Oct 22

And who are you phydeaux to tell me and Rinehart what is good for us? Once again you refuse to accept that this matter is just another “victim industry” example. That is fact, not prejudice.

Bite the hand that feeds you – expect to be pushed out the door

If you want to have a voice, fine. But don’t be surprised by the results of, or repercussions, of what you say.

That’s a very strange thing to say Gary. Surely you are not suggesting that they should not have the freedom to decide who they accept sponsorship money from and the freedom of speech to say why. I’m not sure what you are alluding to about “repercussions”; it sounds sinister.

The problem is that far too often, the individuals involved have either shown significant levels of hypocrisy in their own actions and when they decide to take a stand.

This along with the fact that they’ve either not understood or deliberately ignored where their wages come from leads to a lot of the criticism.

It’s fine to take a stand on an issue, but in doing so, these players should recognise that it may have significant ongoing financial impacts for them, other players and their sport as a whole.

Sponsors are in it for their own benefits, if players want to lessen that benefit, sponsors will rightly be less inclined to support them.

Sponsorship pays their salaries. They’re welcome to take stand against matters, but they will need to accept the fallout and will miss out on the pay they want. Something the netballers will now have to deal with.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.