Today hosts Brooke Boney and Karl Stefanovic have taken aim at WAM Clothing after the AFL was forced to ditch the Aboriginal flag for this weekend’s Indigenous Round.
The flag will be a notable absentee from AFL games this weekend as the league celebrates the country’s Indigenous heritage.
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The Aboriginal flag is usually painted on the ground and appears on each player’s jersey during the annual round of celebration, but not this year.
The copyright is held by Harold Thomas, who designed the flag, and WAM Clothing has exclusive rights to reproduce it on clothing.
The AFL has reportedly paid WAM Clothing for use of the flag in the past, however they failed to strike an agreement this year.
The AFL reportedly put their foot down and refused to pay, sparking debate about who should own the rights to the flag.
Discussing the controversy on Friday morning, Boney labelled WAM Clothing “disgusting”.
“This company that we have to look at are WAM, they’re sending cease and desist orders to Aboriginal organisations and footy teams not to use the flag,” she said on Today.
“This is a flag that is a symbol of our pride, of our culture, of our struggle, of everything that it means to be Aboriginal and these guys are making money from it.
“I know how much this round of footy means to Indigenous footy players. My mates Goodesy and Mickey O, to deny them of that is actually just disgusting.
“If I had an Aboriginal flag T-shirt I would be wearing it and saying WAM, sue me and I encourage all of you going to the footy this weekend to do the same.”
Stefanovic supported Boney’s stance and said WAM could sue him as well.
“I can’t see how they can possibly explain it or keep sending cease and desist letters. If the people vote with their feet and they wear the flag with pride, sue me,” Stefanovic said.
Co-host Alison Langdon called on WAM to do the right thing.
“Do you then say to people boycott this company. Why support a company that does something like this,” she said.
“This is an opportunity for WAM to do the right thing and say, here is the flag, it’s yours.”
Calls for AFL fans to fly Aboriginal flag
Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt is encouraging AFL fans to drape the Aboriginal flag around themselves in protest.
Mr Wyatt has also asked his department for options in solving issues around the use of the flag, expressing his disappointment the “powerful symbol” won’t be featured.
“What I'm hoping is that people who go to the game take their Aboriginal flag with them and drape it around their neck, or carry it, and carry it with pride and display it,” he told the ABC.
Mr Wyatt said the flag should be available to all people who want to access it.
“What I would hope to see is common sense prevail and the use of the flag become more free for significant events,” he said.
Mr Wyatt said he was prepared to look at a range of options to address the copyright issue, having held private conversations with Mr Thomas.
“I'm also very cognisant of (intellectual property) and I'm working with my agency in looking for a way forward that does not breach the individual ownership of the product by any Australian,” he said.
Indigenous Olympic gold medallist and former Labor senator Nova Peris is leading a campaign to make the Aboriginal flag available to all people for free.
Indigenous advocate and former politician Warren Mundine has called on the federal government to buy the copyright.