Australia’s National Rugby Team Refuses to Take a Knee for Black Lives Matter

'This is about honouring our Indigenous people'
October 23, 2020 Updated: October 27, 2020

Australia’s national rugby team, the Australian Wallabies, have decided not to kneel during the national anthem to support the Black Lives Matter movement, after a unanimous vote by the players.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, with the support of Rugby Australia, confirmed the decision on Friday.

Rennie said the team discussed the matter at a team camp in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley prior to their decision, which will affect the Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney where they will face the New Zealand All Blacks next Saturday, Oct. 31.

The decision not to kneel comes after the Wallabies veteran fullback Dane Haylett-Petty on Thursday said that the team was considering to discuss the issue.

“I think it’s great,” Haylett-Petty said, reported news.com.au. “I think sport has an amazing opportunity to have a say and join conversations and a lot of sports have done that and it would be a great thing for us to do.”

But former Wallabies player Nick Farr-Jones warned against the decision and said it could be a “divisive move.”

In a teleconference on Friday, Rennie announced that the team would not kneel in a silent protest.

Australian Wallabies Captain's Run
Head Coach of Australia Dave Rennie during an Australia Wallabies training session ahead of the Bledisloe Cup, at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on Oct. 17, 2020. (Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

“We met with the leaders and then the leaders met with the rest of the team and it’s a unanimous decision,” Rennie said. “The key thing is that this is about honouring our Indigenous people and we want the focus to be on that.”

The Australian team will wear a First Nations jersey during the game against New Zealand next Saturday.

“Everyone has got their own opinions around the other situation but we want the focus to be around reflecting on our history and our past,” Rennie added. “All I’ve said is that our focus is around the First Nations people and the Indigenous jersey. We’re not looking to make a political statement.”

The upcoming Oct. 31 game will mark the second time the Wallabies will wear their Indigenous jersey in Australia, and the fourth time overall in a Test match since its introduction in 2017. No other national Australian sports team dons an Indigenous jersey.

Rugby Australia, the governing body of rugby union in Australia, supported the decision.

“Rugby Australia and the Wallabies condemn any form of racism or discrimination and also acknowledge that we are still on the path to reconciliation,” Rugby Australia interim CEO Rob Clarke said on Friday, according to rugby.com.au.

“The First Nations jersey is a strong statement in itself. It has a truly global impact in raising awareness and in recognising the issues facing First Nations people. Rugby Australia and the Wallabies are incredibly proud to wear it, what it means and who it represents.

“I’m really pleased the players and management have come together to speak about this, as they would with other important social issues. It was measured, appropriate and mature and I congratulate the team as they explore more opportunities to recognise issues facing First Nations people and all Australians.”

The BLM movement took headlines around the world following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in May. Taking a knee has been used across different arenas, including sport, as a way to show support for the movement, with some seeing it as a way to denounce racism.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said that BLM is “discriminatory” and “bad for black people.” He told Fox News in late August that companies that have donated money to the cause are “led by weak people” before describing BLM as a Marxist organization.

portland protest
A Black Lives Matter riot in a file photo in Portland, Oregon, on Aug. 1, 2020. (Noah Berger/AP Photo)

Karl Marx’s theories formed the basis of communism, an ideology that’s led to the deaths of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Black Lives Matter Global Network co-founder Patrisse Cullors said in a 2015 interview that both she and Alicia Garza, another co-founder, are “trained Marxists.”

Earlier this year, the Australian cricket team opted not to kneel for the BLM movement before their series against England in September. Australian captain Aaron Finch told TelegraphSport that “The education around it is more important than the protest.”

“We are not going to do specific gestures like it has happened in the past,” he said. “For us, we are really proud to play a game where it is celebrated all around the world and anyone can play it. It doesn’t matter what race, what religion, what nationality you are from. Cricket is a game for everyone and I am really proud about that.”

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

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