Wonder what really happened with the NSWRL after State of Origin. Racial discrimination as suggested in the interview given by Mitchell? Hmm
Rugby league is about to have its Kaepernick moment. It's a good thing
Chief Sports Writer
December 19, 2019
Not many meetings remain secret in rugby league these days but there was one at a hotel at Sydney Airport recently that few know about.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys met with some of the game’s leading Indigenous players, some of whom had flown in specifically for the meeting before flying out as soon as it was over.
Taking a stand: Cody Walker, right, opted not to sing the anthem before the NRL Allstars match.CREDIT:NRL PHOTOS
Among the group of players were Gold Coast Titans captain Ryan James, Manly forward Joel Thompson and Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell.
What was said remains private, but it’s understood each spoke respectfully and from the heart about issues important to them.
The get-together was a proactive step from the game to listen to its Indigenous players, whose voices are getting louder, stronger, more confident.
They are particularly strong when it comes to refusing to sing the national anthem before representative matches, as well as a significant push to have it scrapped altogether before the NRL All Stars match on February 22.
That debate is intensifying and if it’s anything like the usual discourse about sportspeople and race — like, say, the bullying of Adam Goodes out of the AFL and into retirement — it will be ill-informed, nasty and just plain ol’ racist.
Rugby league is about to have its Colin Kaepernick moment.
Let’s hope the NRL handles it better than the NFL, which ran Kaepernick out of its game after the San Francisco 49ers quarterback started taking a knee when the Star-Spangled Banner was played before matches in protest of police brutality and racism in the US.
The decision to scrap the anthem for the All Stars match rests with the ARL Commission and it will be made just a few weeks before the game is held on the Gold Coast.
There's every chance the internet will indeed be broken, regardless of the decision is made.
“We sat down and talked about it last year and it just doesn’t represent us and what we do,” James said at the All Stars launch earlier this month. “It’s up to the commission now. We can stand there silent and protest, but it’s up to the commission to see what they do. They know where we stand as players and as Indigenous people.”
Players like James, Mitchell Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr and others have invariably been branded un-Australian — whatever that means — because they refuse to sing the anthem. There have also been calls to ban them from representing Australia.
This issue first gained traction in rugby league before the All-Stars match in February this year, and then gathered momentum in the lead-up to State of Origin I when Indigenous players were asked about singing the anthem and all said they would not.
When NSW lost the first match, with Walker and Mitchell turning in forgettable performances, some argued their public remarks about the anthem was to blame. Former coach Anthony Griffin had a theory Walker had drained “the energy from his teammates”.
Blues coach Brad Fittler said after the series he was disappointed with the media coverage around the issue, believing it to be hysterical. Then, earlier this month, Mitchell said in an interview with NRL.com that “NSW went real funny on us because we don't sing the anthem”.
The NSWRL demanded the comment be taken out of the story, threatening defamation, and it took the intervention of NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg to resolve the issue.
Only Mitchell knows what he meant by his comment but it was certainly interpreted as a claim of racial discrimination by the NSWRL. Fittler took offence to it, too.
Mitchell phoned Fittler after the story appeared, and the pair met in Taree earlier this week.
Indeed, the Roosters centre has developed a strong, empowered voice about Indigenous issues, especially via his social media accounts, and good luck to him.
People deal with bigotry in different ways: some don’t dignify it with a response, others shine a light on it. Mitchell has found his voice and he has a right to use it.
But it helps nobody when racism is called out where it doesn’t exist.
Anthony Mundine did that throughout his entire boxing career, trying to make people hate him so much they would angrily buy Main Event subscriptions just to see him lose.
Should the ARL Commission scrap the national anthem before the All Stars game? Should Indigenous players sing it before rep matches? Should they be banned from playing for Australia if they don’t?
Who am I, in my white privilege, to tell Indigenous players what’s offensive to them?
Who am I to say Mitchell should brush off the on-line racist attacks, suck it up, and just play football?
And who were any of us to tell Adam Goodes what racism looked and felt like, first from a teenage girl, then a football club president, then a whole posse of conservative commentators and then thousands of rival fans?
Rugby league needs to learn from other sports, especially the AFL and the NFL, how best to deal with such complex and emotive issues.
V’landys’ meeting earlier this month is an encouraging start.
https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nrl/rugby- ... 53ljp.html