AFL fans have turned on Basil Zempilas after the Channel Seven commentator and Perth Lord Mayor called on fans to partake in a grand final gesture of solidarity.
Zempilas on Friday revealed that the 60,0000-strong crowd at Perth's Optus Stadium would be encouraged to show their support for others doing it tough around the country, with a minute's applause during the first quarter of Saturday evening's AFL decider.
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Western Australia has been notoriously strict on border closures during the pandemic, with WA Premier Mark McGowan this week telling Victoria and NSW that he would not be pressured into opening them up before Christmas.
Channel Seven icon Zempilas says the gesture is designed to show the rest of Australia that Perth and the state of WA are right behind them during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the seemingly never-ending state of lockdown many find themselves in.
“(At) 20.21 in the first quarter (of the AFL Grand Final), we’re asking everyone in the stadium to stand for one minute and applaud — a nod to our friends around the country who are doing it tough & to let them know we’re with them in this difficult time,” Zempilas shared with his 20,000 followers.
“Let’s do it WA.”
The post was shared from Channel Seven's official AFL page and the blowback from AFL supporters has been swift and at times, brutal.
While the message behind the gesture is a well-intentioned one, many critics have slammed it for being disingenuous and called for organisers to rethink the plan.
— 7AFL (@7AFL) September 23, 2021
#AFL Basil Zempilas heart is in the right place BUT the idea of people in Perth clapping for those us in the eastern states in lockdown feels a little condescending and cringeworthy. How about people in Perth just enjoy attending an AFL Grand Final instead?
— Just a Peanut with a Tweeter Account (@crowdiegal) September 24, 2021
I’m sure the thought comes from a good place but please don’t.
— Dogsbelonginpubs (@Dogsbelonginpu1) September 23, 2021
Assuming any protests we see today is solely motivated to prevent this https://t.co/rFGv6MGz28
— Scott (@RestingPlayers) September 24, 2021
It’s a nice thought Baz but I reckon most of us footy fans on the east coast would rather the crowd just focus on and enjoy the game
— Michael Sleap (@michaelsleap) September 24, 2021
60k AFL fans in Perth applauding for one minute will really help me get through lockdown. Basil for PM! https://t.co/Ll4FqwjE9L
— Jordan Wilkes (@Jordanwilkes_2) September 23, 2021
Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli was among those to applaud the idea, however, insisting it would be a thoughtful "tip of the hat" to fans around the country.
"I think that'd be great," he said.
"I guess anything that does send a bit of a tip of the hat to all the people back home that they can't fully experience the game and build up I think would be a nice touch.
"Because everyone's thinking of them, all those people who are part of both football clubs as well. Staff and fans that can't be can't be here that, they're with us every step of the way."
Bontempelli's Bulldogs will be out to stop favourites the Melbourne Demons from winning the club's first AFL premiership in 57 years.
The decider is being held in WA for the first time in AFL history after traditional venue the MCG was forced to give up hosting rights for the second straight year because of the pandemic.
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