The Aboriginal flag has become synonymous with the AFL's Indigenous Round, but 2020 marks the end of a much-loved footy tradition.
For years, the design of the Aboriginal flag has been painted onto the centre circles for all the grounds during the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round.
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This year, however, a copyright issue has forced officials to ditch the tradition, with the world "Deadly" and the name of the ground's local Indigenous population to be displayed in the centre circle instead.
The issue centres around the licensing rights to the Aboriginal flag's design, which was purchased by WAM clothing in 1971.
The company has recently cracked down on the use of the flag for monetary purposes and has ordered Indigenous groups to stop selling products with the flag's black, red and yellow design.
“As with the Indigenous round for 2019, we gave permission to the AFL for the Indigenous players to wear their guernseys on the field with the flag, and there was no issue there whatsoever, and that same permission would have been offered this year as well,” WAM owner Semele Moore told The Age.
“If they want to go sell those to the public, that’s when there would have been fees payable.”
The very fact that a company owns the licensing rights to the Aboriginal flag's design has not gone down well in the footy community.
Veteran AFL journalist Caroline Wilson hit out at the issue, saying it's a great shame that the Aboriginal flag is "imprisoned in commercialism".
"It's horrifying to think that this wonderful flag is now imprisoned in commercialism."— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) August 17, 2020
Caroline Wilson has criticised the removal of the Aboriginal flag from this weekend's Indigenous Round.#9FootyClassified | Watch @channel9 pic.twitter.com/7IT2eZtOQo
"This is one battle the game has to unite over and fight for," Wilson told Channel Nine's Footy Classified.
Aboriginal television presenter Shelley Ware praised the AFL for not paying the company to use the Aboriginal flag.
“Bravo to the AFL for not paying for the use of the Aboriginal flag, for this year’s Sir Doug Nicholls Round … this flag should be everyone’s," she tweeted.
Rights over Indigenous flag spark outrage
Sydney Swans star Buddy Franklin was at the centre of a furore around the Indigenous flag earlier in the year, after being called out for his association with WAM Clothing.
Australia’s first Indigenous gold medalist Nova Peris claimed Franklin’s association with a company that profits off of the use of the Aboriginal Flag was a "kick in the guts".
As a result of the backlash, Franklin decided to stop selling items in his clothing line after being left "deeply disturbed" by the furore around the issue.
Peris - who won gold in the 1996 Olympics for the Australian hockey team - is part of the ‘Free the Flag’ campaign, which aims to stop WAM Clothing profiting off the use of the Aboriginal Flag.
The Aussie Olympic legend hit out at Franklin's association with WAM, claiming it went against everything the ‘Free the Flag’ movement has strived to achieve.
"I've never met [Franklin]. But this is why we're upset. Everything we've been fighting for, for the past 18 months, for him to go and do what he's doing is a kick in the guts for all of us," Peris told The Age.
"That's what we're angry about. If you want to be a leader for our mob, then do right by our mob.
"It was Aboriginal people that gave rise to the flag. We gave it the value. That's why we're angry at WAM, who's profiting off the value of that flag."
Franklin confirmed in an Instagram post in June that he would stop selling the t-shirts and said he never meant to cause any offence.
Thomas designed the Aboriginal flag in 1971 and it was officially recognised as a flag of Australia in 1995.
WAM Clothing’s website claims it is the ‘exclusive worldwide copyright licensee’ for a range of clothing bearing the Aboriginal Flag.
The website claims Thomas, the designer, is paid royalties on every item sold.