Former Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones has urged Australia to not take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement because the team would risk losing viewers.
The Wallabies are considering kneeling before the third match of the Bledisloe Cup, which will see the team also wear its new Indigenous-designed First Nations jersey.
“It’s great that sport has an amazing opportunity to have a say and join conversations, a lot of sports have done that and it would be a great thing for us to do,” Dane Haylett-Petty said on Wednesday about the Wallabies supporting BLM.
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The Wallabies would be the first Australian national team to openly support the movement.
But World Cup winner Farr-Jones strongly advised against it, while he argued that Australia doesn’t have a “major issue” with racism.
“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 told Ben Fordham on 2GB.
“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.
“I think it could be divisive.”
He added: “I don’t think here in Australia that we have a major issue in relation to discrimination of coloured people.
“We went to South Africa in ’92 when it was opening up, when apartheid was just about behind it. Of course (Nelson) Mandela was elected the first black president in ’94.
“We had a minute silence for victims of township violence before we played our Test match in Cape Town but here in Australia I think if you surveyed your listeners, I think 99 per cent would agree that all lives matter. We don’t have that issue. Let’s not make it a political issue in a sporting event.”
Former Wallabies centre and Indigenous Australian Gary Ella was stunned by Farr-Jones’ comments when contacted by the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Without saying they should drop a knee or shouldn’t – to me that’s up to individuals – but that’s crazy … That’s just stupid talk,” he told the publication.
“That obviously shows that Nick doesn’t have a full appreciation of the history of Aboriginal people in this country. If you’re talking about reconciliation we’re talking about sharing and acknowledging the history that we’ve come past and are working towards a better future. Those type of comments are totally ignoring the history.”
Meanwhile, another Indigenous Australian rugby figure, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “He’s dreaming. That’s a stupid comment. How would he know? He wouldn’t know, he’s not Aboriginal. I’m not fussed on the one knee thing but to say we haven’t got an issue in Australia is ridiculous.”
Farr-Jones said that the team would need approval from all stakeholders before taking a knee due to any potential backlash.
Indigenous leader Warren Mundine also said the Wallabies shouldn’t take part in the gesture.
“I think it’s a stupid idea quite frankly,” Mundine told the program. “People are getting a bit sick and tired of sportspeople, people on huge salaries, telling us how we should be acting.
“I think it’s great they’re going to wear the Indigenous colours … but this is a blatant political movement.”