The boss of Cricket Australia has been left speechless over a grilling by a radio host over the sporting body’s decision to ban the words “Australia Day” during Friday’s Test cricket match.
The organisation came under fire this week after it was announced there would be no references made to the national holiday during the Gabba Test match between Australia and the West Indies on Friday in Brisbane.
It triggered an emotional response from cricket stars, fans and politicians alike, including NSW Premier Chris Minns, who described it as a “strange” decision.
Speaking on 2GB radio station on Tuesday, Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley fronted questions from radio host Ben Fordham about the backlash.
Fordham repeatedly grilled the cricket boss before saying “it’s like saying you want people to celebrate Christmas but they can’t mention Santa Claus”.
An uncomfortable moment of silence followed, with only the sound of Hockley’s laboured breathing audible over the airwaves.
“Are you there Nick?” Fordham asked.
“I think I’ve explained our position,” Hockley said.
The chief executive said the organisation was not “boycotting” the national holiday but wanted to be “mindful” that the day meant different things to people.
“We are not in any way boycotting Australia Day, we’re just mindful in our communications that it means different things to different people,” he said.
“We appreciate that many Australians celebrate Australia Day and absolutely love watching the cricket on that day.”
Hockley went on to clarify that without attracting public attention, the organisation had quietly phased out references to the national holiday in its communications over the last five years.
Fordham opened the interview with a “gotcha” question aimed at Hockley, saying: “First of all, what day is it on Friday?”
“Friday is the 26th of January, the Australia Day public holiday weekend,” Hockley said.
“So why is it so hard to say that as Cricket Australia?” Fordham interjected, speaking over Hockley.
The cricket boss said the organisation consulted extensively with their Indigenous advisory board, as well as Indigenous players both male and female, before coming to the decision to remove “Australia Day” from its communications.
“It is a difficult day for them,” he said.
“What we’ve done over the (recent years) is really to be respectful to everyone and make sure everyone feels absolutely welcome.”
When asked for a “yes or no” answer as to whether punters will hear the words “Australia Day” over the loudspeaker on Friday, Mr Hockley said “I don’t believe so”.
Indigenous cricket stars Ash Gardner and Scott Boland have both criticised the decision to play on January 26, describing it as a national day of mourning.