Despite the acknowledgement of the Black Lives Matter movement being entirely of Richmond and Collingwood players’ volition, former Footy Show host Sam Newman believes they were ‘intimidated’ into doing so.
Both teams took a knee before the ball was bounced in Thursday night’s return to footy, recognising the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests around the world, the police killing of Minnesota man George Floyd, and the continued disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians.
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But Newman, who once dressed in blackface on national television in an attempt to mock Indigenous player Nicky Winmar, suggested players were ‘intimidated’ into taking a knee, before making a vague allusion to unknown ‘real motives’ behind the protest.
The global, widely-publicised protests have ostensibly been to address racial inequality and police brutality.
“How long before we stop being intimidated into nodding in agreement and question the REAL motives. The game may be incidental,” Newman tweeted.
“Division, conflict, fury, rage, angst, anarchy, disruption, group guilt, group shaming, acquiescence. Don’t include EVERYONE in the mob mentality, please. AFL is sport!!”
Newman himself is no stranger to protest, having flouted COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria to complain about not being allowed to play golf.
AFL backs ‘player driven’ Black Lives Matter support
Newman, who was responsible for a number of sexist and racist controversies throughout his broadcast career, looks unlikely to change the minds of players.
A player-led initiative, the Tigers and Magpies were determined to take a united stand for the worldwide cause against systemic racism.
It is expected the league's other 16 clubs will display similar shows of unity during the weekend's remaining eight games.
"Certainly both our clubs are endorsing and supportive of our players doing that and they'll do that just before the bounce. We strongly support them doing so," Magpies chief executive Mark Anderson told ABC Radio.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said "racism needs to be stamped out".
"It is an important issue for our players, for our clubs and for the AFL," he told Sunrise.
A number of other AFL clubs, including Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Melbourne and Brisbane, have already posted photos and messages on social media in support of the worldwide movement.