FREEDOM rides, boycotts, “first nations,” reparations and now the anthem. Just as Anthony Mundine made himself an Aldi Ali, Latrell Mitchell now wants to be a K-Mart Kaepernick. If Aboriginal leaders want broader Australian society to respect and work alongside them for a better future, they have to stop apeing Americans and baiting the natives. By natives, I mean non-Aborigines to whom Australia is home just as much as it is for them. According to reports yesterday, several NLR players want officials to drop Advance Australia Fair from the opening niceties of the 2020 Indigenous All Stars match.
Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr and Cody Walker are among those who have made their opposition to the anthem known. The press made much of the trio’s refusal to sing it before Game 1 of this year’s State of Origin. That made lifelong fans laugh because league players have never been renowned as warblers. The joke was always that the posh Old Boys in the Wallabies sang it loudly and proudly – which they certainly did under Alan Jones; he insisted on it – but League lads didn’t know any of the words (especially girt).
The originator of the all-star idea is commonly said to be Chicago sports reporter (and influential powerbroker) Arch Ward. The Ward-backed baseball All-Star Game of 1933 grew into a tradition that lived on to the present day, while the concept itself is now emblematic of player supremacy in a wide variety of sports. When the NRL’s Indigenous All Stars take to the field next year, they do so in a game invented by white Britons in a promotional format stylised by a white American journalist. That isn’t to say they have to pay any deference to either or leave their own beliefs in the shed. But they could do something more original and consequential than ‘taking a knee’ (literally or figuratively). Perhaps they could donate their match fees to bush-fire victims. It’s important to add that Mitchell’s men are not only imitating Americans but also leftist Australian whites who have been pilfering ideas from US ‘progressives’ for more than 50 years.
Our national anthem is a third-rate embarrassment. I don’t blame anybody for not liking it. If it’s deleted from All Stars ceremony, so be it. What concerns me is the get-even nastiness behind calls to boycott it. That spirit of vendetta – where what is sacred to the majority is assailed with malice and national symbols are trodden upon even as the walkers’ chains are removed from Uluru – is arrogantly hypocritical and will do exactly nothing for ‘reconciliation.’ Or maybe – sniffing weakness everywhere – conflict is the golden point.