Michael Long says it’s a “disgrace” that the AFL can’t use the Aboriginal flag for Indigenous Round, calling on fans and the Australian government to take action.
Apparel company WAM Clothing owns the copyright licence to the Aboriginal flag and charges fees for its use.
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The AFL has been forced to pay WAM Clothing for using the flag for Indigenous Round since the company purchased the copyright licence in 2018.
But this year the AFL has said enough is enough, refusing to pay and therefore ditching the flag for the upcoming round that celebrates Indigenous heritage.
Speaking on AFL 360 on Tuesday night, Carlton star Eddie Betts said the AFL made the right choice.
“Yeah I would (like to see the issue resolved). I didn’t really know until last year as well,” Betts said.
“I wrote a children’s book about Aboriginal culture and I put the Aboriginal flag in there.
“I didn’t know I had to get permission being an Aboriginal person to teach young kids at school about Aboriginal culture.
“There was a lot of politics behind it ... I support the AFL for not paying to use the Aboriginal flag because it should be free for everyone.”
Michael Long slams Aboriginal flag ‘disgrace’
Long, an Essendon legend and Indigenous Round ambassador, has called on fans to show their disdain by flying Aboriginal flags at games this weekend.
“I’m calling on all supporters coming to the ground this weekend to bring an Aboriginal flag in support of what is happening,” he told the Herald Sun.
“I didn’t believe it when I first heard about it. I didn’t think it was real. It is a disgrace. That flag belongs to all Aboriginal people – not just to any individual.
“We are having the biggest game ever here in Darwin as part of Indigenous round and that flag is really symbolic.
“It is something that we fought for with the racial vilification of players who played the game and athletes like Nova Peris and Cathy Freeman – they have flown the flag for Aboriginal people.”
The AFL will instead paint the Torres Strait Islander flag on the field and the word “Deadly” - an Aboriginal English word meaning very good or great.
However Peris, Australia’s first Indigenous gold medallist at the Olympics, isn’t a fan of that plan.
“Writing ‘Deadly’ on the field is ridiculous and I’m sure many people, particularly non-Aboriginal people, wouldn’t understand that gesture,” she told the Herald Sun.
“It has very little meaning to older generations. It will be embarrassing if that goes ahead.”
Meanwhile, AFL 360 co-host Gerard Whateley called on the Australian government to help free the flag from copyright.
“Clearly these debates have been going on outside football circles but once it enters footy ... it is something the government should sort out and there are clearly greater minds than ours on this front,” he said.
“There has to be a process by which the government can buy the copyright for the Aboriginal flag and then present it to the Australian people to use.”