MUNGO MACCALLUM. Politics is an integral part of sport

“Keep politics out of sport.”  No doubt this piece of graffiti appeared some two thousand years ago on the walls of Olympia, when the Roman emperors were accused of fixing the chariot race. Certainly it has appeared on and off ever since as conservatives pretend that sport is some sacred activity that can be divorced from the messy business of being part of the society in which it takes place.

Thus the latest beat up from Tony Abbott, who objects to the NRL’s choice of rapper Macklemore’s hit song Same Love as part of its grand final program. Many years ago the same objection about politics impinging on sport was raised when John Williamson’s ditty Rip Rip Woodchip was included in the celebrations. As that other sporting icon, Yogi Berra, might have put it, déjà vu all over again.

The fact is that politics is an integral part of sport, which is why politicians gouge and grovel to gain free tickets at matches where they can parade their credentials as being in touch with the real Australia. Indeed, Abbott goes even further with his annual Pollie Pedal, a charity event apparently designed largely to enhance his physique in lycra.

And others have taken an even more decisive role – remember the international boycotts against South Arica, and the furore when the McMahon government ordered the RAAF to ferry the all-white Springbok team around the country. Even before then a courageous group of seven rebel Wallabies had refused to play against the racist regime, and shortly afterwards the untouchable Sir Donald Bradman canceled the forthcoming cricket tour planned for the following summer.

A rebel tour took place, but even the diehard South Africans realized that it wasn’t the real thing. The sporting boycotts added serious weight to the economic boycotts which came into place and in the end Nelson Mandela was freed, and his country welcomed back into the international fold. The point is that politics in sport can be very effective, which is why people like Abbott fear and oppose it.

But it has become a part of Australian life: just about all the big sporting institutions have taken stands against local racism, sexism and domestic violence and now have programs for inclusiveness and diversity as part of their modus operandi.

And by and large the public have accepted and even welcomed this progress towards a more tolerant and decent culture — what Abbott undoubtedly derides as political correctness. As always, the man is speaking with forked tongue: what he really objects to is not the politics per se, but the political messages he does not like. Which is okay; he does not have to listen to them if he doesn’t want to. But when he argues that no one else should be allowed to either, it looks perilously like an attack on free speech.

His colleague (well, up to a point) George Brandis quickly slapped him down but in one sense he had already made his point: enough controversy was generated by the Abbott-starved media to provide yet another distraction, yet another addition to the misleading and deceptive scare campaign with which he hopes to achieve – well what?

Certainly to irritate, exasperate, and undermine Malcolm Turnbull, but also, presumably, to make his target audience uncomfortable and not only at the NRL grand final. Keep politics out of sport – indeed, keep it out of everything. Just do what Tony Abbott tells you: this is not about politics, but about divine revelation.

Mungo MacCallum is Mungo MacCallum.


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2 Responses to MUNGO MACCALLUM. Politics is an integral part of sport

  1. michael lacey says:

    It is indeed quite interesting. There are so many people spending so much time concentrating on spectator sports; if only half of that time is spend watching what politicians do, or focusing on those things that really effect their lives maybe then we would get a better class of politician that actually represents!

  2. J Knight says:

    Some years ago I would always enjoy hearing Mungo on late night radio berating the follies of the neo-con economic agenda – as if it has any other purpose than making the rich richer!

    But, Mungo’s perception that one needs divine revelation to attack another aspect of the ‘male, pale and stale’ (with thanks to Mr Menadue!) agenda – sport – misses the mark.

    Just as the bread and circuses of Rome did little to help the needy and kept the revolting peasants at bay, and very much kept the elite firmly entrenched, this latest revelation of a ‘responsible and socially aware’ sports and businesses is a classic deflection from the proper authorities auditing these organisations real responsibilities.

    I detest sports as the opium of the mindless, and, rate it only second to the corporate thuggery that is business lobbying that undermines our democracy.

    Bash Tony, bash the Church and keep flying the flag of the left, but, there are many who enjoy pontificating and few with the resources or dedication to defeat the economic and political status quo beyond social agendas that the former think will sure them up.

    Outside of stable, ordered and politically literate families, what sort of resistance will keep them in line? A whole lot of self interested millennials with their 6 part time jobs paying off a useless degree?

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