Sydney Swans star Buddy Franklin has been forced to stop selling items in his clothing line after being left "deeply disturbed" by backlash over his use of the Aboriginal flag.
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 is a ‘kick in the guts’.
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WAM Clothing owns the rights to produce the flag on clothing, after an agreement with the flag’s copyright owner Harold Thomas, and Indigenous AFL star Franklin uses the clothing manufacturer to sell goods via his website.
A spokesperson for Franklin told The Age he followed the law and “we did what was legally right,” and he was proud of his heritage.
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 on Tuesday, claiming he is going 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 has since addressed the uproar in a candid Instagram post, where he confirmed that he would stop selling the t-shirts and said he never meant to cause any offence.
Franklin never meant to disrespect anyone
“I have been deeply disturbed by comments targeting me about the use of the Aboriginal flag on T-shirts we produced through the only licensed and legal avenue, being through WAM clothing, and in doing so, with full and due respect to the artist, Harold Thomas,” Franklin’s statement read.
“Our intention was to produce the T-shirt, as an expression of my cultural pride and to encourage Australians of all backgrounds to wear our flag, that is an official flag of our country, with pride.
“It was never, our intention to disrespect others in Aboriginal communities, and as a result of this issue, we will not be seeking to order or sell any further T-shirts or merchandise until the matter of our flag being made freely available is resolved for the good of our people, and our country.”
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.
Clothing the Gap, running the Free the Flag movement, says it is an Aboriginal owned and led social enterprise and fashion label that is based in Preston.
On their website, Clothing the Gap claims they were served a 'Cease and Desist' from WAM Clothing for celebrating the flag on some of their items.
Clothing the Gap have been lobbing to the government and relevant bodies claiming there should viable channels for new licensing agreements for the flag.